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KIPP helps worst students, study says

Among the many controversies surrounding the Knowledge Is Power Program, the nation's most successful charter school network, is the suggestion that KIPP scores look good because their weakest students drop out. A new and unusually careful survey has found that in the case of at least one KIPP school, that's not true.

Last year I wrote a book, "Work Hard. Be Nice," about KIPP co-founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg. I promised readers who think this makes me biased that I would mention this in future columns on KIPP. I don't think I'm biased, but I am obsessed. I think KIPP--and schools like it--are the most interesting phenomenon to emerge in public education in my lifetime. I make sure that all important developments in KIPPland--both good and bad--are reported here.

The new study, "Who Benefits From KIPP," [[[this link is to a page that makes you pay for the report. The link to the report directly for free is, but I could not copy and paste it. Yet the WSJ managed to use it as a link in a blog post. Maybe our experts can figure this out.]]]was done by Joshua D.
Angrist, Parag A. Pathak and Christopher R. Walters of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan and Thomas J. Kane of Harvard University, for the National Bureau of Economic Research. It is the first to use a randomized control group method to determine the effects of KIPP's long school days, energetic teaching and strong work ethic on fifth- through eighth-graders.

Comparing the progress of about 200 students admitted to KIPP to another 200 or so who applied but were not selected in a random lottery, the study shows significant gains in math and reading for KIPP students compared to the control group. This is interesting because Mathematica Policy Research Inc. is doing a national study of KIPP using the same method. It will be the largest study ever done of a charter school network. Its final results are still a few years away.

Will the big Mathematica report discover the same gains in dozens of KIPP schools that this new report finds at the KIPP Academy in Lynn, Massachusetts? That is hard to say. But as someone who has studied KIPP for eight years and is convinced of its importance, the results of comparing KIPP students to similar KIPP applicants who failed to win the lottery are a powerful endorsement of what KIPP Lynn founder Josh Zoia and his teachers are doing.

Their students are doing better than regular public school students even though KIPP applicants have somewhat lower test scores than average Lynn students. Also note that KIPP Lynn teachers are much younger than counterparts in the regular school district (88 percent 40 or under compared to 29 percent in the Lynn Public Schools) and much less likely to be licensed in their teaching assignment (26 percent vs. 98 percent.)

The study contains an intriguing response to those who have suggested that KIPP's good results may derive from recruiting above average students and working them so hard that the weakest among them drop out and return to regular public schools. The paper quotes from a 2004 book, "Class and Schools," by Richard Rothstein. KIPP schools he studied "select from the top of the ability distribution those lower-class children with innate intelligence, well-motivated parents, or their own personal drives, and give these children educations they can use to succeed in life," according to the book.

The new KIPP study contends that "KIPP Lynn raises achievement more for weaker students." It looked at the lowest category of scores on the Massachusetts state test, called the warning level, and found that "a year at KIPP Lynn reduces the probability that students perform at the warning level by 10 percentage points for math, with an equal likelihood of reaching the advanced level. For ELA [English Language Arts], the table shows a five percent drop in the warning group. . . It is noteworthy that achievement gains in both subjects come from a shift out of the lowest group."

Some experts have suggested that the weakest of the KIPP students are more likely to leave KIPP schools because of the 9-and-a-half hour days and two hours of nightly homework. That would mean KIPP gains in average test scores are inflated by a growing proportion of strong students among those taking the tests.

The researchers noted the rise in scores of the weakest students as one answer to that argument. Then they looked at the percentage of KIPP Lynn students who do leave the school. "KIPP Lynn lottery winners were much less likely to change schools than those who lost the lottery," the study said. "This difference is attributable to the fact that KIPP Lynn students stay at KIPP in the transition from 5th to 6th grade, when LPS [Lynn Public School] students move from elementary to middle school. Excluding the transition from 5th to 6th grade, the results show no difference in switching between winners and losers. . .This weighs against the view that exit from KIPP matters for the achievement gains reported here."

KIPP Lynn is just one school in a state that treats its charter schools better than most others do. KIPP Lynn is paid by its school district to educate its public school students under a per pupil formula that is twice what charter schools in California receive. That allows it to hire extra staff to make sure every student gets the education he or she deserves. Its student teacher ratio, Angrist noted in an email to me, is, however, no different from the 14-1 formula for the regular Lynn schools.

The report notes that the results are particularly impressive for special education students, about a fifth of the KIPP Lynn student body, and students with limited English proficiency, also about a fifth of the total. The study found that among KIPP Lynn students, "score gains are largest for special education students and students with limited English proficiency."

I visited KIPP Lynn last spring. School leader Zoia is a Boston-area native who learned from Levin, one of the KIPP co-founders, when he taught in Levin's original KIPP school in the South Bronx. The KIPP Lynn faculty seemed to me well-motivated and creative. Their results don't surprise me. But there are 82 KIPP schools now in 19 states and the District, and many more studies to come.

By Jay Mathews  | March 5, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Trends  | Tags:  Josh Zoia, KIPP Academy Lynn, KIPP achievement gains confirmed, KIPP helps worst students, new KIPP study  
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I'm happy and not surprised to hear that KIPP students do better than comparable students who don't have the strong extra supports offered at KIPP. This is common sense. KIPP is offering some measure of what middle-class kids already have.

I suspect the comment you make about the KIPP teachers being younger is an attempt to suggest that being younger is better. Did the survey measure that?

I would suggest that the additional supports and commitment is what makes the difference and that KIPP has younger teachers because they pay less (this is common sense and easily checked). Who knows, if KIPP had more experienced teachers, the kids might do even better, but a serious controlled experiment would be required to measure this. I doubt anyone wants to do this experiment, because I doubt people in power would want to pay more for better teachers.

As it is, even the president of the US supports educational initiatives that have no basis in academic research, are punitive to teachers and will only serve to line the pockets of higher ups without helping children -- as the research has shown so far (just surmising on the pocket lining part - but it's a good guess)

Posted by: efavorite | March 5, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Regarding KIPP, do they teach subjects other than reading and math?

And, it was hard to tell, but did the study factor in the amount of instruction time in LPS and at KIPP?

Did the students at both schools receive the same number of minutes of instruction before taking the MCAS?

Posted by: edlharris | March 5, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

the results of comparing KIPP students to similar KIPP applicants who failed to win the lottery are a powerful endorsement of what KIPP Lynn founder Josh Zoia and his teachers are doing.

This is the flaw which invalidates your point. Reminds me of the old saying about people using statistics like a drunk uses a street lamp, for support instead of illumination.

Posted by: mamoore1 | March 5, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

For mamoore1: I think many readers, including me, would love for you to explain yr analysis further. Your metaphor is colorful, but I am slow this morning and don't see how it applies.

For edlharris: As you say, the time of instruction is quite important. As I said in the piece, KIPP Lynn students, like KIPP students in general, have school days that are 9 to 9 1/2 hours long. That gives them more time to learn not only math and reading, but science, social science, music, arts and lotsa of other stuff like dancing and computers. The study did NOT factor in the instruction time, but I am pretty sure the regular Lynn schools have a standard school day, probably about 6 and a half hours. It is clear to me that the longer school day is key to the KIPP success, because it provides not only more time for instruction but perhaps more importantly more time for teachers to compare notes each day on how each kid is doing, and share ideas.

For efavorite: I wasn't trying to make the point that younger teachers are better. I thought the data was interesting. I had never seen such precise comparisons made between the ages of KIPP teachers and regular teachers. So I put it in. I am glad you asked the question because it gives me a chance to say that I do NOT think younger teachers on average are better than older ones. We already know that teachers with less than 3 years experience are significantly less effective on average than those with more experience. If anything the age differential at KIPP suggests that its unusual structure, and very careful process of teacher selection and training, make up for the relative youth of its staff. Not all KIPP teachers are under 40. I have met some great ones who are getting close to my age. KIPP looks for teachers who are energetic and creative and willing to work very long hours. Particularly when it comes to the long hours, younger teachers tend to be in life situations that make it easier for them to handle that.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 5, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse


Thank you for providing father insight regarding KIPP program. I LOVE the fact disputing the claim that "low income neighborhoods" = "low achievement" It supports the fact that if children, no matter family financial status, DO have chances toward positive academic achievement, IF effective resources are provided to them.

Curious though, what are the average classroom sizes within KIPP schools? (if this information is somewhere in the data you've provide, I missed it.)

Posted by: TwoSons | March 5, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Please allow me to correct my grammatical error before....

"Thank you for providing FURTHER..."

Posted by: TwoSons | March 5, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

For TwoSons: good question. Class size was not mentioned in the study, but I have visited about half of the 82 KIPP schools and have a good sense of their class sizes. They are in almost every case larger than the neighborhood schools in their areas. For fifth to 8th grade, regular schools I have visited have close to the average national class size, about 24 kids. KIPP classes tend to be in the 28 to 32 student range. The KIPP school leaders have almost all told me that they believe that very well selected and trained teachers can handle that many kids, particularly when all teachers operate with the same class management rules and high standards, a big plus when you have large classes. Making the classes that large allows the schools to enroll enough students to be able to afford the longer school day, and the extra money paid to teachers for that extra time. They are NOT paid the standard hourly rate for the extra time---a sore spot with unions---but they are getting extra money, usually about 15 to 20 percent more for a day that is at least 30 percent longer than usual.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 5, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

from the 2007-2008 report, class size was 20 students and 30 students in the core subject areas.
This data was not included in the 2007-08 KIPP Lynn report.

Posted by: edlharris | March 5, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Interesting study. I can't say that I'm familiar with the work of Pathak or Walters, but I have nothing but the highest regard for Angrist, Dynarski and Kane.

Posted by: proxy_knock | March 5, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Mathews & edlharris.

I asked because classroom sizes are continuously expanding and public schools needing to "do more with less" especially over the next few fiscal years.

"The lottery for incoming fifth grade 2009...there is a waiting list of 250 Lynn residents" The capacity of the school is 320.

It's pretty apparent that parents want access to educational programs that seem to be working. It's pretty much what all parents that care want for their kids during school hours.

But to be honest Mathews, financially speaking, can public schools really compete against Charter schools such as KIPP? 9 to 9.5 hour days is very costly when considering school operation budgets.

Posted by: TwoSons | March 5, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I have never posted before, so forgive me if I sound silly, but I don't think that this study proves what you want it to prove. First, there is the issue surrounding testing. There is nothing to convince me that the test itself is something of value. Second, the issue surrounding KIPP's attrition rate doesn't seem to be resolved. Citing evidence that KIPP students are less likely to move doesn't mean that KIPP doesn't dump students who perform poorly on prep standardized tests. Saying that it does is a pretty big leap in logic. Third, the rise in student test scores is very nice, but it just means that KIPP does a good job at preparing students for the test. Who cares? If I spent all my time studying for a test, I'm sure I would do well, too. You're still not proving that this test is a valuable measure of educational achievement and until you do that, you're not proving much. If there was a correlation between success on the test and high scores on the SAT, at the very least, or perhaps even level of earning, I would be impressed. But I'm pretty sure there isn't one.

Posted by: peteyamama1 | March 5, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I think there may be a factor to be considered as well.

Most parents can give two cents about test scores. We absorb what our children are bring home for homework, what level of difficulties there may be (or not), etc. We intereact with other parents who currently have children enrolled and weigh pros/cons to include school environments, safety, and effective/consistent leadership/teachers.

Posted by: TwoSons | March 5, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Twosons, where is the claim that "low income neighborhoods" = "low achievement"

I couldn't find that quote anywhere here and don't recall hearing it from people in the educational field. Could you source it for us?

Posted by: efavorite | March 5, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

efavorite, why does anyone need to "source" anything for "you"?

having said that, I've seen multiple posts relating "challenges", "how impossible", "parents not involved", esp. in low income neighborhoods.

Because you don't recall seeing it, does not mean it doesn't exist.

Google It...K?

Posted by: TwoSons | March 5, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

When I was in college I was made to take an advanced math class even though I hadn't mastered Algebra I in high school. The professor had several students like me and didn't want to flunk all of us so she gave us copies of the test to take home and "study." I was so bewildered by the subject that the only course of action I could take was to have some capable students solve the problems for me. I then memorized the answers. When the professor gave the very same test in class I "passed." (In those days there was no "bonehead math" or tutoring available.)

This is essentially what is happening at many "miracle" schools. Teachers know what's on the test and are drilling the kids on it. Maybe this isn't occurring at KIPP but it's happening at a lot of schools. Some school leaders even admit to it. I don't call this education but maybe others do.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 5, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to peteyamama1: Many people share your doubts about testing, but at the moment it is the only objective comparative, measure of schools we have, and the MCAS in Massachusetts is one of the most highly regarded of state tests. It sets a high standard, and professionals in the field compare it favorably to the great variety of other state tests, and some places like DC have borrowed it.
Your second point about retention is a little harder to understand. If kids are dumped as you suggest, then they would have to leave the school, but the number leaving the school is no different than regular schools. Since the demographics are the same, meaning the family pressures to switch schools because of switches in jobs and other issues are roughly the same, then neither KIPP nor the regular schools are dumping kids, or both are doing it. The charge has been that KIPP as a charter can dump kids while a regular school can't, so that charge at least has been disproved for Lynn.
And I guarantee you there is a very high correlation between success on the MCAS, and any other state test, and success on the SAT. The higher the family income of the student, the better they do on all of those tests. But a lot of us would not accept the SAT as the best measure of an education either. Keep visiting and we will get into that, and my view that the AP and IB exams are much better ways to judge high schools.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 5, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

For Linda/RetiredTeacher: As we both know, since schools were invented, teachers have know what was on the test (since they wrote it) and "drilled" (I would prefer the word taught) kids to pass it. That is called teaching and review and assessment. How is this different, except in this case teachers get together and design tests for an entire state, and we all get to see the results and compare school to school, and see how kids progress?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 5, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

twosons - thanks for getting back to me.

When I see words in quotes I assume someone is being quoted. In this case, looks like I was wrong.

It was a particularly provocative phrase, though, so I was interested in following up on the source.

Posted by: efavorite | March 5, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Jay, thank you for your polite response. I'll post a more complete analysis soon, rather caught up school stuff today. I would however like to leave you with a quick story from my past.. About 16 years ago when I taught in a rather out of control middle school I proposed to the admin that I be allowed to hand pick a class of "problem children" to teach in my class all day for the rest of the year. ( trust me, the arrest records alone confirm that these were some tough kids). I picked the kids based on their discipline records, but the kids were told that they had to apply to be in my special class. ( ok, I flat out lied to the kids and their parents about the selection process) I was a good enough teacher/entertainer at the time to make the targeted kids want to apply, and they felt special for having made the cut. The results were pretty darn good. I still think the #1 reason things worked out so well was that the kids felt special for being there, and my bluff that I could kick they out worked. This is not a direct response to today's topic, but in a way it says a bit about why some things work. Thanks for reading.

Posted by: mamoore1 | March 5, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Jay - there's a difference between drilling and teaching. I was once doing very poorly in a college algebra course that I didn't study for and had no talent for. I drilled for the final and got an A on the exam which brought up my grade significantly. It was strict memorization. I didn't have time (or interest, really) to actually understand the material. I still have nightmares about that course.

Teaching to the test is drilling.

Posted by: efavorite | March 5, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse're wrong about a lot of things. no quotes.

But that's not the point nor really very important.

The point is schools like the ones in the KIPP program seems to be working in low income areas. Arguments about why they work have been refuted.

They seem to be getting the work done and disallowing excuses to stand in the way of achievement. Alot of schools (charter/public) seem to have wonderful performance plans, theories, guidelines but it's more important to DELIVER those same services being promoted and where parents want to send their children to learn.

The State of Maryland students are preparing for MSAs. I've spoken to many teachers about "teaching to test" theory. Their responses have been although they do some test preparation, they still focus on curriculum absorbtion. Why? because parents have the ability to track student progress/achievement in real time. I'm more concerned about my childrens academic test scores and comments coming home on their homework assignments. Most parents that are focused on their child's progress are as well. And I must say, I thank GOD every single day that they are enrolled in the PUBLIC schools they are in. MSAs take place 4 days out of a year. I'm (like many other parents) are focused more on what's happening the other 176.

Posted by: TwoSons | March 5, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Aren't the oldest KIPP graduates now college-aged? I seem to remember reading somewhere that something like 85% of them went on to attend college, which is a very impressive percentage especially given the demographics.

That statistic would seem to show that KIPP is doing more than just test prep...

Posted by: CrimsonWife | March 5, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Jay, thanks for your thoughtful response. I get that some people think that these tests are quality. But there's really no proof. I like to think that I turned out pretty well and I don't remember getting this much test prep for a test that really had no impact on me.

As to the second point, saying that kids move less often in KIPP does not mean that the kids who do move aren't being kicked out by KIPP because of poor performance, does it? If it does, I apologize, I'm just reading what you've posted above.

KIPP does great work with some students. But does their method work with everyone? And why do we want our kids to care about taking standardized tests so much? I never took a multiple choice test in college or graduate school. And the real world isn't about taking these kinds of tests. Is this about preparing kids to enter the world as high functioning adults or what? KIPP is a very limited model that hasn't really been studied very effectively. The right questions aren't being asked here. Until we start asking the right questions, we won't get real answers.

Posted by: peteyamama1 | March 5, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Also, you mention that there is a high correlation between SAT scores and MCAS scores for children from upper income families. Is that true of the children who attend KIPP as well?

Posted by: peteyamama1 | March 5, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

efavorite - I think TwoSons is referring to the Achievement Gap when he/she (sorry, I don't know) wrote about "low income neighborhoods" = "low achievement". It's just an observation that there is a positive relationship between income and achievement, not a claim of causation.

Also, please don't take this the wrong way, but you're not, nor have you ever been, a teacher or administrator, right? I ask because of your contention that "teaching to the test is drilling." While I certainly agree that they are (unfortunately) often one and the same, I wholeheartedly disagree that they're necessarily equivalent. If a summative assessment (e.g., a final exam) is carefully and thoughtfully written, it should read a lot like the curriculum map that a teacher uses to plan out and pace his/her year, semester, units, and class periods. Is that not "teaching to the test" so to speak?

Linda/RetiredTeacher - Your point about "miracle schools" is a good one. Forget about just drilling, how about cheating? Have you been following what's going on in Atlanta?

TwoSons - Re: your comment about the 9 to 9.5 hour days - Charter school financing varies by state but on average, charter schools actually get less money on a per student basis than do traditional public schools. For instance, some states net out facilities expenses from charters' share of per pupil spending. Plus, there are a number operating costs (e.g., a lease or mortgage payments) that remain unchanged regardless of the length of the school day.

peteyamama1 - Lots of really good stuff in your posts. Totally understand your concerns about standardized tests. And I think you're totally right that KIPP doesn't work for everyone. But is that really a reasonable bar for us right now? Are there any methods that work for everyone? Any that even come close? In any case, you are clearly very thoughtful so I hope that you will continue posting on this and other threads.

mamoore1 - Your story about your class of "problem children" is an interesting one. I've definitely seen the same phenomenon with my students. But that doesn't necessarily disprove KIPP-Lynn's results, does it? It might just mean that we're attributing the cause of the results to the wrong factors.

Posted by: proxy_knock | March 5, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

mamoore1 - Your story about your class of "problem children" is an interesting one. I've definitely seen the same phenomenon with my students. But that doesn't necessarily disprove KIPP-Lynn's results, does it? It might just mean that we're attributing the cause of the results to the wrong factors.


Posted by: mamoore1 | March 5, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I am not a testing expert but I'll try to answer your question.

Teachers have been making up tests for ages and they usually prepare their students to pass them. So for a spelling test where there are ten words, the teacher will teach those words, give a pretest, teach some more and then give the test. These are called "teacher made tests" and their purpose is to teach the material and to put pressure on the students to study them. These tests also help the teacher to assess each child's progress and to evaluate her own teaching.

"High-stakes" tests are standardized and are designed to be administered in a certain way. They are designed to test what a student has learned over a long period of time. A device known as "sampling" is used on these tests. Let's get back to spelling:

In the second grade a child might be expected to learn to spell several hundred words. The standardized test cannot test the student on all those items, so it will present a sample of twenty words. If the child knows how to spell most of those words, it is assumed that he knows how to spell almost all the words at his grade level.

Now what happens if the teacher looks at that test and drills the kids on the twenty words that are on the test? Now we only know that the students know those twenty words. The test has been invalidated. That's what's happening in many low-achieving schools. The teachers aren't doing that as much in affluent schools because the students can be depended on to score high on standardized tests.

A good expert on testing is W.James Popham of UCLA.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 5, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse


I'd like to explain something else that I think is misunderstood by many people who are not teachers.

Even in the poorest schools, there are many children who are very capable. Some are gifted. Based on my experience, I would say that in a class of twenty there might be one or two gifted children and at least five or six who are close to grade level or above grade level. These children would do well in any school if given the opportunity.

Now these are the children who often have parents who are desperate to find better schools for their children. The parents might be poor but they are often very involved with their children's education and do most of the things that are likely to support their child's learning (reading to them, engaging them in conversation, taking them to the museum, etc.) These traits might not show up on any demographic survey so it looks as though their children are just as deprived as the other students. In short, many poor people make excellent parents and there is a mountain of research to show this correlates very highly with academic achievement.

Well, when a charter school opens up and asks for applications, these are the parents who find out about it and request the necessary forms. They fill them out and turn them in. So these parents might be as poor as everyone else, but they still form a select group.

Now let's say some of these children get into KIPP where they get lots of extra attention, but some have to go back to the traditional school. Who do you think will do better? As efavorite said, isn't it just common sense that the KIPP students would do better than the students who have to go back to the school without the extras?

I don't doubt that the KIPP schools are doing very well (in the same way that parochial schools have done well) but what I object to are the conclusions that are drawn about these schools that aren't necessarily correct. Are the children doing well because Mom cared enough to fill out the application? Are they doing better because they no longer have as many disruptions in the class? There are just so many variables that can't be controlled.

I DO believe that KIPP schools are probably doing a fine job, but not for the reasons you give. I believe they've discovered the same "secret" of the Catholic schools: a select population.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 5, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Linda's comments suggest a very major methodological flaw with this research design (as I understand it after reading Jay's initial post).

My understanding is that in this research design, the unsuccessful applicants to KIPPs (i.e. the control group) were returned to regular public school classes, not isolated as a separate control group. If this is the case, it is a major methodological flaw because the regular public school teachers cannot implement a curriculum as rigorous as that used for the intervention group.

For this to be a valid control-intervention research design comparing the effectiveness of KIPPs with the regular school curriculum, you would need to take a representative sample of the entire student population and put them through the KIPPs program as the intervention, and include the test results of the entire sample, including the kids who dropped the program. I predict this would not work because most of the kids and parents would not be willing to put in the long hours required and the test score gains small proportion of kids who could handle the intense workload would not probably not compensate for the high attrition rate of the rest.

If I'm correct about the research design, all that can validly be concluded is that streaming highly motivated kids/parents results in better achievement for those kids than if they are left in mainstream classes. It does not show that the KIPPs program is actually any more effective under identical conditions, whether that be with streamed or unstreamed classes. This is not to say that KIPPs isn't a worthwhile niche product, just that it does not seem to offer a solution to the problems faced by the majority of students, parents, and teachers.

Posted by: Trev1 | March 5, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

KIPP has a longer school day, a deliberate and controlled school culture, and a unified, aligned curriculum. So it's not really surprising that KIPP works.

But does KIPP work for all kids? Probably not. A lot of kids (and their parents) simply would not put up with the demands.

It also puts a lot of burden on teachers. It's not surprising that KIPP teachers are young. Most probably don't have family responsibilities (yet), are energetic, and can afford the 100% commitment. But how long can they sustain it?

So even if KIPP works well, it's pretty much a boutique solution. Mostly it depends on a ready supply of energetic young talent willing to take on a 24/7 job for relatively little pay. And if you think there is an ample supply of those, you have not seen the pampered, entitled, coddled children of baby boomers emerging from this nation's colleges.

Posted by: dz159 | March 5, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

The only valid test would be if KIPP took over an entire school system. Would its efforts be sustainable with ALL students. That is the daunting task that public schools have.

Posted by: flcat | March 5, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse


No doubt you have a great deal of experience in classrooms. But I beg to differ in your assumption that "poor parents" are "desperate" to find effective education for their children. "poor parents" are doing their best to survive to provide as best they can, esp. within the current economic climate. Most if not many want the best for their children. The most "afluent" parents are returning BACK to public schools due to job loss, corporate downsizing and reorganization. But realizing this is separate issue from topic of discussion is understood.

A parent should not need to be in a position to desperatly seek quality education, no matter financial status. But the fact remains that public school effective educational resources are limited and challenging to acquire, even within afluent districts.

All must work together; seek ideas and resolutions that work within particular areas. The KIPP program seems to be what works for the Lynn community. Charter schools works best for some, maybe not all, but to some it's important. Who is anyone to judge what parents feel and experience works best for their own? may want to volunteer in some of the "poor" communities and try to make a difference for those who may not be as "afluent" as you seem to be.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | March 5, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

I am one of those hereditarians (like Arthur Jensen, Charles Murray, and Linda Gottfredson) who thinks that the lower academic achievement of Blacks and Hispanics is due to their lower IQs compared to Whites and Asians. The KIPP story appears to prove that Blacks and Hispanics are capable of high academic achievement and it implies that the fact that they tend to have lower IQs is perhaps not all that important.

BUT, I am still not convinced! I still suspect that there is a selection factor for the brighter students and also that there is the possibility that the highly motivated KIPP school staff might be fudging the answers on the tests to make it appear that their students are doing very well.

To alleviate my suspicions, how about having an entire school district convert to the KIPP system so that there would be no possibility of selection of brighter students (I realize this would be very expensive but what the Hell, just ask the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund it, I am sure they would). Furthermore have the MCAS tests conducted under independently verified proctoring and strict security to prevent cheating. Then I will be more convinced of the validity and veracity of these claims.

Posted by: rifraf | March 5, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse


I see that I did not explain myself very clearly. I meant to say that SOME poor parents are desperate to get their child into the best school possible. Often these are the children who do well in school. They might be poor but they are "rich" in the sense that they have parents who are very involved in their schooling.

I agree with you that parents should have choices: neighborhood schools, charter schools, KIPP, etc. My point was that it's often the most motivated parent who seeks these options.

I also agree that no parent should be "desperate" to find good schools, but that seems to be the reality for many people. It's a reality that we must face if we're going to do anything about it.

For 42 years I taught in mainly poor schools; that's what I base my comments on.

I do disagree with your comment that good schools are often difficult to find, even in the suburbs. That has not been my experience, nor that of my friends and relatives. Almost all of us have sent our children to public schools with very satisfactory results. Each year the late Gerald Bracey would do a poll of Americans. He found that the vast majority gave their local schools an A or B but gave other schools poor grades. He decided that most Americans get bad school news from the media and not from their local schools. Also the United States has done quite well in the world and most of our outstanding citizens have attended public schools.

I am not able to volunteer at this time, but I'd like to.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 5, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

rifraf, I will take an IQ test with you any day of the week. I guarantee that you will come out on the losing end.

Posted by: peteyamama1 | March 6, 2010 1:45 AM | Report abuse

I posted my question about instruction time on Professor
Sue Dynarski's blog and here is her response:

@edlharris: Our research question in this paper is: "Is KIPP Lynn more effective than the traditional public schools in raising test scores?" Our results answer that question, and the answer is "Yes." We can't say whether it's more hours, or a different curriculum, or different teachers, or something else. The mix is doing the job but we do not know which ingredient!

Posted by: edlharris | March 6, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse


Wow. With 42 years of teaching experience, I'm sure you've seen it all.

In most instances low income (poor) families don't know where to look, how to acquire, gain access, or familiar with the bureacracy and red tape to allow as many opportunities made available to their children as possible. Hard working low income families work 12-16 hr. days to pay the rent. Low income families are placed in situations beyond their control. Please note that these are not excuses but reality.

I didn't say say "good schools are hard to find" but gaining access to effective education resources are limited and challenging to acquire. Meaning, if you live within a particular school boundary, you cannot gain access to a school that has maintained higher standards (unless you participate in the lottery system) and even then, their are no guarantees. The cost per student varies from one county in MD to the next. The diffenence can be as high as $3K per student between neighboring county school systems. So, when you have this type of equity difference, of course it impacts what resources are available to that particular school system that directly effect the classrooms. Demographically speaking, Prince George's County Public Schools system has the highest percentages of Special Needs/FARM/Title 1 schools but school budgets have been slashed $125M for the past three years alone, yet our test scores are rising even though our teachers and students are forced accomplish a great deal with less funding.

Nationally speaking, the United States were once leaders in Education. Clearly, we've fallen behind and it's not because of low income families or lack of parental involvement.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | March 6, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Hi, Proxy-knock – nice to see you here. Regarding “teaching to the test” I was not referring to how teachers approach the whole course, but was specifically referring to the time right before state or district mandated standardized tests (i.e. not written by the classroom teacher) are given when teachers concentrate solely on preparing students for specific questions or subject areas they think (or in some cases know) will be on the test.

To Linda, Ed and Trev1– thanks for your further insights about testing and the KIPP model.

Posted by: efavorite | March 6, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Linda/RetiredTeacher wrote:

"I DO believe that KIPP schools are probably doing a fine job, but not for the reasons you give. I believe they've discovered the same "secret" of the Catholic schools: a select population."


This study compared kids who had applied (but didn't get in) to KIPP, and those who got in. I don't see how you can say that the group who got in had more motivated parents. That's what makes this study more reliable than others.

If you ask me, the difference is in the hours that the teachers put in and the commitment required of them. That is why most are younger. Teachers with their own school-age kids would have a hard time with the schedule, which is basically 10 hours a day in the building plus being accessible by phone/email at night.

That is also why KIPP is really not easy to replicate on a large scale, unless some kind of job-sharing was introduced so two people could handle the job.

Posted by: trace1 | March 6, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Linda/RetiredTeacher, with all due respect to the late Gerald Bracey, an alternative explanation for the poll result that the vast majority of parents give their kid's school an A or B while giving the public education system an F might be due to nothing more then a refusal to face a hard truth.

It's just easier to view your kid's school as an exception to the rule then to accept that your kid is getting a lousy education. That would result in, at least some major guilt and at most the necessity of uprooting the family and moving to a school district in which the kids are getting a good education provided you could afford to do so. Far better, all things considered, to pretend that everything is just peachy.

One factor which so far hasn't been discussed as a causative agent in the differing results between KIPP and district schools is the effect choice would have on both parents and kids.

By the act of making a choice for their kids parents assume a degree of control over the education of their children that's absent in district schools. The charter school's the school chosen by the *parents* for their child and that's a choice unequivocally made in the interest of the child.

Can the same be said about an administrative decision to assign a child to one school over another? Almost certainly not. The district has its own necessities and those obviously supercede the educational interests of the child. After all, there are lots of kids so the needs of the district have to take precedence.

That powerlessness, and the apathy and resignation that comes from powerlessness, can't help but be communicated to the child. Conversely, where the parent selects the school the parent is the decision-maker. There's just less to be apathetic and resigned about and that also can't help but be communicated to the child.

Posted by: allenm1 | March 6, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse


That the vast majority of parents rate their kids' schools an A or B means absolutely nothing (even if true). The parents at my kids' DCPS school thought it was "great," largely because their kids made honor roll. There were no books assigned until 6th grade, classical root vocabulary was never taught, cursive and/or keyboarding was never taught, grammar was never taught, science was a joke, and history was pretty much nonexistent (the third grade curriculum was studying Washington, DC -- for the entire year). Nevertheless, the parents said the school was terrific.

The problem is there is no comparator. I noticed that some reality set in for parents if their kids went on to private school or more rigorous suburban schools; they realized how woefully under-prepared the kids really were.

Posted by: trace1 | March 6, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

to allenm1 - interesting theory to examine.

I'd say that with many public schools neither parents nor children feel resigned, because they're satisfied with their school, just as they're satisfied with the many other of their neighborhood services.

With respect to charters (excluding KIPP), there is actual evidence that many charters do not perform better than public schools and sometimes perform worse. So the element of choice is not working as you suggest it would. Parents and students may well be satisfied with their choice, but it's not improving performance.

Based on the evidence we have at this point, my conjecture is that it's the program at KIPP that is making the difference.

Posted by: efavorite | March 6, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The assertion that parent involvement in school choice skews charter school performance is watered down somewhat by the fact that the overall DCPS/PCS school population is divided nearly equally into thirds: one third in in-boundary DCPS schools, one third in out-of-boundary DCPS schools, and one third in charter schools.

Posted by: gardyloo | March 6, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Just the fact that a student applies to a school means that they are already part of a select group.

Posted by: mamoore1 | March 6, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse


You did not get my point.

Let's say that a group of parents apply for a KIPP school. All these parents are motivated enough to ask for the application, fill it out and turn it in. Some of these children are accepted (by lottery) into KIPP while others are not. The children who go to KIPP get a special program as well as classmates who all have parents who selected the school. The other children have to go back to the neighborhood school that has to contend with many problems. Do you need a Harvard researcher to tell you who will have the better school experience? Isn't this just common sense?

Ed Harris did us the favor of writing directly to the researcher,(see above) who said that the KIPP students did better but they don't know why. That is the $64,000 question:


Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 6, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Trace, Allenm, PGCresident:

I did respond to your posts but it didn't appear when I hit "submit." I think it was too long or I took too long to write it. Anyway I'm too tired to write another response. Let's just say I appreciated all your remarks, whether I agreed with them or not.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 6, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

To peteyamama1,
Whether or not your IQ is higher or lower than mine has no bearing on the topic at hand. But the well verified fact (proven in dozens of studies) that on average Blacks and Hispanics have substantially lower IQs than Whites and Asians is highly germane to the topic at hand.

To flcat,
We both agree that in order to rule out the possibility of selection effects we need to see if KIPP can be as successful when it is applied to an ENTIRE school district.

Also to reiterate a point made by Richard Rothstein and by Freakenomics authors Dubner and Levitt, very often the pressure to show high achievement test scores leads school officials to engage in widespread cheating. When scors appear to be too good to be true--they probably are false! Before I can accept the claim that Blacks and Hispanics (who usually have lower IQs) are actually capable of real higher level performance on MCAS tests, I want to see the resulsts of these tests when they are admnistered under secure verified conditions (outside proctors, strict monitoring of collection of the tests etc.), because I suspect the possibility of widespread fraud and cheating at the KIPP school in order to make their MCAS score numbers look good.

Posted by: rifraf | March 6, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

The reported data about the percentage of students leaving the different types of schools do not answer the question about whether the observed changes are due to differential attrition. If the academically weaker students leave charter schools and the stronger students leave non-charter schools, this would result in a difference in their average scores that has nothing to do with improving learning. Or is there other data that would shed light on this?

Posted by: PatriciaRogers1 | March 6, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

efavorite: You can say whatever you want but in D.C., Detroit, Canton and more then a few other cities the percentage of kids going to charters argues rather strongly against the assertion that parents are satisfied with the schools their kids attend. Given an opportunity to pull their kids out of district schools they do so with an enthusiasm which argues that the only reason they were keeping their kids in district schools was because they had no alternatives. Hence, resignation.

As to the scholastic merits of charter schools versus district schools I find the assertion that charters aren't notably better pretty humorous.

After all, the public education lobby has fought vigorously against accountability measures and now that accountability is becoming inevitable there's an ongoing attempt to try to use test results as a club to batter the opposition.

Not that the attempt surprises me at all. After all, there are legions of useless, education functionaries and a nation full of teachers who up until relatively recently had no reason to concern themselves with demonstrating professional skills. The prospect of moving into a regime in which professional skills are crucial to continued employment has got to be daunting. So you use whatever opportunities fate provides without blushing.

As to the observation that some charters aren't very good, so what? They'll inevitably fall by the wayside when a better alternative presents itself. You know the same can't be said of some of the perfectly dreadful district schools. They can go on being an educational catastrophe forever.

Posted by: allenm1 | March 7, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Allenm – My assertion that many parents are satisfied with the traditional public schools their kids attend is not mutually exclusive with the assertion that many are not. This is what choice is all about - not to force parents to choose between public and charter but to give them a choice.
I’m in favor of the school choice that charter schools provide, and I don’t presume that all parents make their choices for the same reasons.

Charter schools have the same achievement accountability under NCLB as traditional public schools do and it’s this publicly available information that affirms that on average, charter schools do not outperform public schools.

Posted by: efavorite | March 7, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

KIPP is doing a good job, but you must be more balanced in your reporting. KIPP has a reputation of screening out kids based on interviews with their parents. What occurs right here in Washington, DC is that kids are given diagnostic tests, then parents are often called in the evening with the results, and told that their children are not likely to be successful at the school. This is the real truth.

Posted by: topryder1 | March 7, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Topryder1:

I think deep down we all know the "secret" to a "good" school, whether it's preschool or Harvard. Here's the recipe:

You ask people to apply. Next you give some kind of aptitude, diagnostic or achievement test. Then you accept the high scorers. If you are a school that is required by law to take everyone, then you counsel out the low-achieving students by telling the parents that your school cannot serve the child's needs.

In a democratic society such as ours, I think parents have a right to this kind of school, but it's very important to be honest about it.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 7, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Comparing the progress of about 200 students admitted to KIPP to another 200 or so who applied but were not selected in a random lottery, the study shows significant gains in math and reading for KIPP students compared to the control group.
Any selected group in a charter school does better than the the non selected group that remains in the public school.

The non selected group in the public school must remain in a system where students who are violent and disruptive are tolerated. Big surprise that the non selected group do poorly.

Claims that charter schools are better will be true when all of the disruptive students in public school are shipped to charter schools with the proviso that they can not be sent back to the public schools no matter what.

The problem in public schools are disruptive children that can not learn and have no incentive to learn. Instead of sending these children to charter schools the problem is totally ignored.

Posted by: bsallamack | March 7, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Matthews, thanks for an interesting article.

Some questions for you: Students and parents must sign and abide by an agreement in order to maintain enrollment in a KIPP academy. Violation of these agreements results in the student being discharged.

What would you propose as an analogous system for public schools? For example, in my own class this year I have 22 students. 11 parents attended the October Parent/Teacher conference regarding the first report card during a window of 5 school days with appointments available between 7:30 AM and 8:00 PM.

Not surprisingly, the students who have engaged parents are more likely to succeed than the students who parents are unable or unwilling to support their child's learning at home, as required by contract in KIPP schools.

I have 4 students who have accumulated an excess of 40 absences each, not an insignificant number during a 180-day school year. Truancy court has been notified but has not followed through on any measures outside of a warning letter.

In a a KIPP school this level of absence would be grounds for an immediate dismissal from the school.

Of the original 22 students I had on the first day of school in August, 8 have moved away during the course of the school year and I have acquired 5 new students, 4 since February. All of these students' test scores will count towards my "score" as a "successful" teacher.

Even those students who are in my class for as little as 5 weeks will be part of my accountability report, even though I was not their teacher for the vast majority of the school year -- a daunting challenge when they will be tested on accumulated knowledge for the entire school year.

I choose to work with students who face daunting challenges in their lives and I largely succeed. If public schools were given the same ability to control factors such as behavior, attendance, parental involvement, and curricular focus as the KIPP schools are given, I wonder if the results might be similar?

Instead we are required to take any and all students whenever they show up, with no lottery admission, no ability to demand involvement, attendance, completion of homework, compulsory tutoring and extended day attendance and very restricted ability to deal with behavioral and curricular issues, which are controlled by state and federal mandates.

I'm excited by what KIPP schools are achieving. I'm not impressed with apples to oranges comparisons, however. KIPP schools are a good alternative for some families. The system they operate under is not comparable to what public schools are required to do, hence the concept of charter schools. Saying that one does better than the other is not a fair comparison unless they are doing things with the same resources and restrictions.

Posted by: GooberP | March 7, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

GooberP suggests an idea for a "simple" and relatively inexpensive way to help all low-income children:

In many of these schools there are a few children in each class who are extremely disruptive. Many of these children have mental health problems so it isn't always their fault but they do cause extreme disruption to the delivery of instruction. Most teachers in these schools are forced to put up with this behavior. If these children were given aides to take them out of the classroom so the teacher could continue with her lesson, that would help so much. Another idea would be to place these children in therapeutic classrooms where they could get the help that they need. When I was in England about fifteen years ago, I was impressed to see that extremely disruptive children were not permitted to interfere with the learning of others. They had aides at their sides at all times.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 7, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Jay -

This data is consistent with the findings in the SRI report of the Oakland area KIPP schools but doesn't address the problems that study found. First that over 30% of the KIPP kids drop out for reasons that the study could not explain. And that KIPP succeeds with large private support that provides them with 100% more money per pupil.

It is already known that extending the school year and school day will improve achievement, we don't need KIPP to demonstrate that. There is no political will and not enough private money to double support for public education. KIPP fails as a model because it is unsustainable. This is a great example of why the charter school movement is a hoax. The Credo study showed that less than 18% of charters are outperforming the local public schools they are compared to. Credo did not look at funding. What we need is a model of public schools that succeeds with the same funding levels. Because there are currently large sources of funds for charters that probably will eventually move onto the next fad, we need to know if any of the Charters that Credo found outperformed their local public schools did so without large additional support from private funding sources. All the success stories I've seen on TV, and print media are ones that have huge private funding sources. It may be that one of these models will be so consistently successful that we could leverage it to increase funding across the board for public schools, but hell may freeze over too.

Before you or anyone chimes in about how much money DC has, I will remind everyone, that more than a third of the funding goes to serve the very small percentage of special ed students who have sued and gotten private placements. Also it does not have more money than many urban districts, and definitely does not when you control for how expensive this region is. I will agree however that just throwing money at the problem will not necessarily fix it. So perhaps having some models that work if funding could double may be an interesting intellectual exercise, but it is not a solution to our public education problem.

Posted by: qazqaz | March 7, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

I also would say our local public school would love to have parents sign contracts for behavior of the parent and/or child. For a traditional public school this is illegal. If we are going to compare public schools to charters we must require the same standards.

Posted by: qazqaz | March 7, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

efavorite - I'm sorry but there's a vast difference between feeling lucky about the school the district has decided to put your child in for the purposes of the district and being pleased with the choice you made for your child.

A school district, by its nature, will place its organizational needs above the educational needs of any individual child. Since there's no such thing as a group child the only kid(s) whose educational needs are met are the ones who meet the organizational needs of the school district, i.e. the average kids.

We can see how that organizational imperative works to this day in the way special education kids are handled.

It's taken legislation to ensure that school districts have no choice but to assign teachers who have particular, demonstrated skills to special ed classrooms. It's taken a bunch of federal funding, much of which was diverted to expenditures unrelated to the education of special ed kids that being one of the reasons for NCLB, to pay for special education. Even with all that and decades to come to terms with the problem there's quite a thriving, little, industry educating kids the public education system still hasn't learned to educate.

Oh, and charters handily outperform district schools because if they don't they disappear, statistics to the contrary notwithstanding.

And yes, I know there are lousy charters but like the old story about two guys who encounter a grizzly bear a charter doesn't have to be good, it just has to be better then the district schools.

Posted by: allenm1 | March 8, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Why is what happens at KIPP schools relevant? KIPP's attempt to run an existing public school was a failure. They determined that unless they could start a school with new students, they couldn't succeed. Their test scores were lower than comparable public schools. Unless regular public schools can start over with new students who have applied and not take in new students after fifth grade, I don't see the point in making comparisons.

Posted by: Susan50 | March 8, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

What a great discussion. A quick response to topryder1. It is an urban myth, one of many about KIPP, that KIPP DC screens kids based on interviews. They don't do it. It would be against the law. The many people watching KIPP closely would have sounded the alarm on that long ago if it had ever occurred, since it would have been so easy to detect---you would have a parent saying she was interviewed by KIPP before her child was admitted. KIPP and other charters do not interview families before they are admitted. All students who apply to a charter must be admitted unless there is an oversubscription, and in that case admission is by a blind, random lottery. KIPP only interviews families AFTER they are admitted, in order to explain the rules and have them sign the commitment to excellence form which makes it clear that kids must do their homework and parents must sign it (but not help with it. The kids call their teachers for that.)

One other general point: there is NO data that I have seen proving that parents who apply to charter schools are smarter, more motivated, more on the ball, whatever, than parents who put their kids in regular public schools. It is in my view an ill-informed insult to parents who put their children in their neighborhood schools. I have talked to such parents and many are very motivated. They know well which are the good teachers. They want the school to succeed. They feel a part of that community. And putting yr kid in a regular public school requires plenty of motivation. You can't just point the kid in the right direction and say bye bye. You have to fill out forms, you have to present proof of residence, and proof of vaccinations. If the kids gets into trouble, you have to come to the school talk about it. Many charter parents I know made no effort to research the charter school. They just figured since its not DCPS, it must be better, in many cases an erroneous assumption. At KIPP they are under less pressure to help because the kids have the teachers' cell phone numbers to call with homework questions. The notion that charter school parents are better parents must remain in the urban myth category until somebody does some research to prove it, and I bet that study will be full of surprises.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 8, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Susan50's latest point in an excellent one, which I explored in this previous post:

I think it would be worth it for regular urban school systems to explore doing exactly that. Close schools that are not performing well and use those buildings to start an assortment of new schools with smart principals who have picked their own staffs and are resolved to work as a team, each school with a different emphasis that might attract different kinds of kids, and then let families decide which schools they want to attend, in each case a fresh start.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 8, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

One other general point: there is NO data that I have seen proving that parents who apply to charter schools are smarter, more motivated, more on the ball, whatever, than parents who put their kids in regular public schools.

Jay, rather than make my usual snarky comment about this line please let me assure you that the although no studies support it the truth lies elsewhere. In my district, which is very close in size to DCPS there even has been some major litigation over the district trying to place minority/low ses students in the various charter/magnet schools. The districts rational was that the charter/magnets, which in general are well thought of had become over populated with rich white kids. ( the numbers did support this). The district wanted to balance things out and bumped minority students to the head of placement lists ahead of of students who had applied on time or first. I'm not trying to make any point about the discrimination here, just the fact that when given a great educational opportunity the parents of traditionally successful students ( white,educated parents) did what it took at disproportionate rates to make sure their kids had that chance. The traditional neighborhood schools serving the same population experience students wandering in over a 2 or three week period at the beginning of the school year when the parents remember that school must have started. I bet you KIPP programs work, how could they not ? The real question is why.

Posted by: mamoore1 | March 8, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I'd be curious to know how many KIPP teachers quit. Since 50% of teachers quit in the first five years of teaching in
non-KIPP schools, that might tell us one of the reasons why the KIPP philosphy and schools are so successful. I'm a big fan of charter schools especially after all I've seen teaching virtually every grade for about 40 years in the non-charter public schools.

Posted by: goodjuli20031 | March 8, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

For mamoore1: I don't think you meant to, but it sounds like you are arguing that white affluent parents are smarter and more motivated to help their kids than poor minority parents, and the proof of that is the white affluent parents were quicker to get places in these unidentified magnet/charters in an unidentified city than the poor minority parents were. I don't think that is a sustainable argument, particularly when we are talking here about urban charters where it would be illegal to bump minority parents to the top of the list. These sound like magnets, not charters, and that is a very different issue.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 8, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I did mention the word litigation with respect to the practice. The courts found against the district. You might gain insight( or even change your mind) if you were to do some additional research. The district lost in federal court but they did develop a rather compelling case with interesting numbers. As a group educated parents approach school in a way that makes their children more successful. LOTS of exceptions. That includes doing the extra leg work required to enroll in a charter ( I accept the fact that we disagree that the charter enrollment is any extra effort). Note to Trace and Twosons, just the fact that you read a major newspaper and comment in an articulate manner puts you into a different group of parents than those who can't be bothered, I may often disagree with you, but any educator would respect the fact that you are at least in the game. It's not race, it's attitude towards school.

Now, why does this matter

Posted by: mamoore1 | March 8, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

"One other general point: there is NO data that I have seen proving that parents who apply to charter schools are smarter, more motivated, more on the ball, whatever, than parents who put their kids in regular public schools"

Is this because the issue has been researched and the results show no difference, or because the issue hasn't been researched?

Your insinuation that your critics are racist is beneath you Jay. This thread has an interesting discussion by thoughtful people. Any serious academic reviewer of this research would ask tough questions about the sampling issues involved, that's not racist, it's standard critical review. It's not clear to a casual reader if the research you cite has been peer reviewed or is a vanity publication by an advocacy group, the fact that it's not published in a major education journal raises red flags. This is not to say that the conclusions should be ignored, but just that implying that people who question the methodology are racist does not contribute to the discussion.

Posted by: Trev1 | March 8, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

For Trev1, the issue has not been researched as far as I know, and it would be very difficult to construct a study that quantified the level of motivation for their kids in different sets of parents.
I did NOT accuse anyone of racism. I thought that in this great and respectful discussion, it was important to tell mamoore1 how his or her argument struck me, and might struck others. I began the sentence saying I was sure mamoore1 did not mean it to have any racist intent, but we can't look away when we think we see the issue. We have to discuss it.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 9, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Ok Jay, your statement "there is NO data that I have seen..." implies that the issue has been researched and that you have read the research. If it hasn't been researched, it's a very plausible hypothesis that the parents of kids in KIPPs schools belong to a different sample of the population than parents of kids in regular schools. Good research will acknowledge this and limit conclusions accordingly.

The research design you cite has a major methodological weakness, as other posters have pointed out above. It takes randomized groups from a non-representative sample of the population, compares them under conditions with multiple independent variables, and now we have claims that attribute differences to a single independent variable. That's not how good research is done.

Posted by: Trev1 | March 9, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Trev1 - You're ignoring that different research designs answer different questions. You are correct that this design cannot answer the question "Is KIPP Lynn better (at raising test scores) than X?" Where X is a specific curriculum or program or school.

But this design does answer the following question: "Is KIPP Lynn better (at raising test scores) than what is available to these students in the absence of KIPP Lynn?" I would argue that this is an important question and it's closer to the one that parents face when choosing among schools or districts. They cannot know all the little details of what the school day will contain, but they have to make a decision about the whole package anyway.

Sue Dynarski's answer to edlharris as he posted above recognizes what question this study can answer:
@edlharris: Our research question in this paper is: "Is KIPP Lynn more effective than the traditional public schools in raising test scores?" Our results answer that question, and the answer is "Yes." We can't say whether it's more hours, or a different curriculum, or different teachers, or something else. The mix is doing the job but we do not know which ingredient!

Posted by: amr11 | March 10, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Having heard so much about the success of Kipp schools, I visited one, a middle school in the Delta. This is what I observed and was told by students and staff.

First, they take all students BUT if the students do not follow the rules, they are put out. I was told that the boot rate was 41% but I have not seen any official data. The kids who flunk out and misbehave go ... guess where? ... yep, the public schools.

Second, The longer days are not everyday and not for all students. Only students needing extra tutoring stay later and only a couple of times a week. Saturday mornings are for the same students.

They have another late day for a celebration. In the celebration, the kids who have done well receive rewards by "buying" items with the "dollars" they earned for being successful during the week during the week. They can save from week to week to get a really good prize.

In the spring, for $100.00, kids have the choise of touring Atlanta, Washington, or camping out in Utah.

Kids are drilled and tested over and over again with scores posted in hallway for all to see. ALL scores, good or bad.

Kipp is using a token economy, an old reward method that works well with some students, but not all. Since so many Kipp students are disadvantaged, this is a good motivator.

If the public schools could ditch all students who misbehave and fail academically, we could be a Big Success too!!

Posted by: suegjoyce | March 10, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"Is KIPP Lynn more effective than the traditional public schools in raising test scores?"

The research does not answer that question because of sampling problems. The students admitted to KIPPs are almost certainly not a representative sample of the same population admitted to public schools. The title of this thread, "KIPP helps worst students, study says", is misleading because the worst students will not stick with the extremely rigorous KIPPs program even if they enroll in the first place.

Posted by: Trev1 | March 10, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

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