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A KIPP Response

One of my recent posts on Class Struggle, "Creative Leaders' Will to Succeed Is Key to KIPP," received many great reader comments. In response, I would like to offer some extended thoughts.

The attrition rate for full size KIPP middle schools is only about 10 percent, very good for their neighborhoods. Some brand new KIPP schools lose much more than that the first one or two years, but tend to get better as the school leader and teachers figure out how to address the problem.

The figure of a 60 percent California KIPP attrition rate in the otherwise lovely review of my book in the Post Sunday was wrong. That was the figure for just one class in one new California school, which has since improved a lot.

I will have a piece on parents and KIPP in the Post eventually. They are holding on to it for the good reason that we have had a lot of KIPP stuff, and there are other good education stories that also deserve space. There is much about parents in the book. They are key to the schools' success, but usually not at the beginning, when the typical KIPP parent does not know much about KIPP and does not expect much. One of the things KIPP teachers focus on is proving themselves to parents.

Don't let the KIPP teacher intensity scare you before you talk to some KIPP teachers. The ones I have interviewed are very nice, otherwise normal people who love their work, because of the support and extra time they get to do their jobs.

KEY's first class of about 80 kids has 62 members who KIPP knows are now high school seniors, and 58 of those are going to college. I used the percentage because it compared more clearly with the 10 percent going to college rate for low-income black high school seniors. I am asking where those other 18 KEY first class members are. I failed to ask before. It is a good question. I suspect KIPP has lost touch with some of them.

I did not ask how many of the original 80 made it through 8th grade, but i will ask. We know it was at least 62.

I have looked carefully at both KIPP families and non-KIPP families, and have found no data so far that show them to be clearly different in any major way in those neighborhoods. More studies, like the big Mathematical study, may clear that up.
I have heard these stories of KIPP kids being weeded out, and have repeatedly asked the people who tell them to me to put me in touch with these families so I can check the stories. So far none have. My interviews with KIPP teachers, and much time spent at KIPP schools, indicates that if such does happen, it is very rare. It is much less common than the weeding out done at regular public schools, who usually have special programs--in many cases just warehousing--to send troublesome students.

I write a lot more than any other American education reporter. It is a flaw, in a way, but there it is. So I am surprised if someone says I haven't covered something, particularly relevant to KIPP. This was just one 800 word column. No space for everything. Please read my new book, or google my name and KIPP, and you will see a lot more.

KIPP has to accept all students who apply, like all charters do, just like a regular public school. The difference occurs when there are more applicants than spaces. In that situation, KIPP schools hold a lottery. State law usually gives siblings preference in the lottery, but otherwise they have to take everyone. Very few regular inner city public schools, at east in DC, are oversubscribed. That is why DC has closed so many schools lately, so very few schools are overcrowded.

Any more questions? Try me at mathewsj@washpost.com.

By Washington Post Editors  | February 25, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
 
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