More questions for KIPP
Here's the next chapter in a debate about the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP charter schools. Last month I posted a discussion that I had with my great colleague Jay Mathews that involved KIPP and Teach for America. Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation and author of "All Together Now: Creating Middle-Class Schools through Public School Choice," wrote a post that I published last week about KIPP attrition rates referred to in the Valerie-Jay debate. Then this morning I published a response to Kahlenberg from KIPP's Jonathan Cowan and Steve Mancini. Over again to Kahlenberg.
By Richard D. Kahlenberg
On Jan. 4, I outlined some concerns about attrition rates and intake at KIPP schools, and today, KIPP officials Jonathan Cowan and Steve Mancini responded. What follows is my response to their response.
KIPP schools are on the whole impressive, but they are often held up as proof that poverty and segregation are “excuses” for failure, rather than significant barriers to high student achievement. After all, most students in KIPP schools are poor and the schools are both economically and racially segregated. If KIPP can produce high levels of achievement, why can’t regular public schools – through hard work, extended learning time, and a non-unionized workforce – achieve the same results?
Elsewhere, I have raised objections to this line of thinking, noting that KIPP schools are different than regular public schools for a variety of reasons: they rely on self-selected student populations (rather than ones assigned to them); they get lots of private money; and they rely on a difficult-to-replicate workforce model – primarily young childless teachers who work extraordinary hours..
In the Jan. 4 blog post, I focused on another way in which KIPP schools differ from regular public schools: the attrition and intake rates.
According to a 2008 SRI International study of five San Francisco Bay-area KIPP schools, 60% of students dropped out between fifth and eighth grade. Moreover, unlike regular public schools, very few students entered into these KIPP schools in the seventh and eighth grades. As a result, the KIPP schools became demonstrably smaller over time, and a given KIPP student was surrounded by peers who have a strong commitment, on average, to the program – a huge advantage over regular public schools.
Cowan and Mancini don’t dispute the data, but say that KIPP has gotten better at reducing attrition since the 2008 study was published, and that “many KIPP middle schools, including those at KIPP DC, now regularly enroll new students at all grade levels.” This is a very welcome development but could use some elaboration.
Cowan and Mancini say that KIPP is committed to transparency, and in that spirit, I’ll end with three questions:
1. How many students are now entering KIPP schools across the country during the seventh and eighth grades? Today, what is the aggregate difference between the size of the sixth grade KIPP classes two years ago and the eighth grade classes today? And how has the new influx of students in seventh and eighth grade affected KIPP test scores?
2. Which groups of students (by race, gender and income) are most likely to leave KIPP?
3. If KIPP wants to put the self-selection, attrition, and intake issues to rest, why doesn’t it simply start taking over regular public schools, educating the students who happen to live nearby, including those who move in during the course of middle school?
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| January 10, 2011; 4:30 PM ET
Categories: Charter schools, Guest Bloggers | Tags: century foundation, charter schools, charter schools and segregation, jay mathews, kipp, kipp charter schools, kipp schools, knowledge is power program
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