Jay Mathews: KIPP helps worst students, study says

3.6.10 – 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.

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.

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 http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/5311, 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.

more…. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2010/03/examining_kipp_dropout_theory.html


  1. Bill Page

    Question: Have the people attempting to evaluate this complex situation considered the Hawthorne effect, Pygmalion effect of the interactive effect, the Gung Ho effect? When I hear what the leaders are doing and what the researchers are doing, those are the first considerations I would make. billpage@bellsouthnet

  2. Concerned Teacher

    KIPP students spend 60% more hours in school per year than do typical neighborhood public school students. I should hope this would result in increased achievement. It also has the effect of keeping these students out of the pernicious gang culture that infests so many areas of high poverty and that promotes values that actively oppose high achievement. Culture is powerful.

    Students and their families must sign contracts agreeing to KIPP's demands. Failure to live up to the contract results in "expulsion." To the extent that the school has accurately, clearly, and fairly presented itself to the community, and that those who sign the contracts fully understand them and are motivated to abide by them, they should be able to attract students and families who are likely to comply and , and willing to put in the time and effort to succeed. Others will either not apply, or will take a look and withdraw.

    There is nothing wrong with this, but it does assure KIPP of those who are willing to do what it takes to succeed and that is much of the battle. Some of the small elite colleges accomplish this by accepting only 8% of their applicants. They have developed a means to accurately matching students to their school culture, and it pays off in low attrition rates. They also have a very low student:faculty ratio and support staff to counsel and intervene when a student is slipping, plus they have huge endowments that pay for these pricey services. Charters in America often have corporate sponsors and receive generous private funding.

    A successful charter will present itself in such a way that those who are not sympathetic to the culture will not enroll. The school culture is all important in nurturing success.

    The difficulty I have with this is that the excessive demands upon teachers' time at KIPP and its clones are not conducive to a long term commitment to teaching. We simply cannot expect teachers to work the ultra-long workdays at school, go home to field homework hotlines then return on Saturdays, and maintain this pace over the years. This precludes family life, and much of a personal life.

    Americans seem to have a love affair with the ideal of the devoted teacher who subordinates all other valid life goals to the job and the needs of her students.

    If this is the environment that is required to bring low SES students up to standard, and IF this is important to our nation, then we need to find a reasonable approach to getting services of this intensity to those who need it without expecting a 10, or more, hour workday from the teachers. Perhaps we need to consider two teaching shifts that will overlap; an "early" shift and a "late" shift. Most other professions would employ a solution like this.

    We also must get it that good lessons require prep and this prep can be time consuming. Giving students meaningful feedback, grading work, is also time consuming, but vital. Good teachers in all settings actually work far more hours than we see. In this age of technology, it has become much easier for teachers to engage in much of this work in the comfort of their homes after hours, but you will never see it. There are many such teachers in neighborhood public schools, though few can work 10 hour "teaching" days.

    If we want collaboration, we must include time. The act of teaching a class of 25-37, while rewarding, is highly demanding on a second-to-second basis, and is therefore draining, mentally and emotionally. There are some aspects of the profession that are just not possible to appreciate unless you roll up your sleeves and DO it.

    It is romantic to believe we only have the best and the brightest in teaching, though reality dictates that we probably cannot fill every classroom in America with these wonder men and women, there are not enough of them. Teacher compensation packages in the U.S. also preclude attracting most of these best and brightest.

    Praise away, Jay. It is wonderful that KIPP has offered a fine education to some of our students who would have otherwise have languished to joined gangs, but let us consider how to create a sustainable and realistic model to serve the underprivileged on a large scale. How can we reach the less motivated, the "gangbangers," the students who don't have responsible parents who will apply to KIPP? Regrettably, there are more of these students in high poverty neighborhoods than there are willing motivated KIPP students and parents, and KIPP is not recruiting them (but they would tarnish their "numbers").

    Finally, the most successful nations, educationally do not abuse their teachers and then boast about it like this, of course the U.S. has one of the highest overall poverty rates of all the world's developed nations, too.

    Frankly, I am still not convinced America is serious about closing the "achievement gap."

  3. Harry Wong

    Thanks for the wonderful lead, Jay.

    I was able to print from http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/5311 and I'm no expert.

    And thanks to Bill Page for his wise comment.

    What I laugh about at all those who criticize the KIPP schools and even all charter schools is when I ask them, personally, to tell me what they know about how a KIPP school or other charter schools are run, they can't tell me.

    As I tell anyone who wants to be effective, "Steal ideas" or "Tell me what I need to know so that I can do what I need to do."

  4. Doug Little

    I have said before, Goeffrey Canada of the HCZ refuses to work with KIPP because he says, they are not a true example, they cream their students.

  5. Joe Nathan

    For the 40 years of my professional life as an inner city public school teacher, administrator, parent, PTA president and researcher, folks like "concerned teacher" and Doug Little have come up excuse after excuse designed to deny the accomplishments of highly successful district or chartered public schools. Jay, thanks for your continued attention to KIPP and other outstanding schools, district and chartered, which offer hope and opportunity. They also offer, to those with open minds, very important lessons.
    As Jay knows, we used some of those lessons to help the Cincinnati Public Schools increase high school graduation by almost 30 points, and to eliminate the graduation gap between white and African American students.

    Joe Nathan, Director
    Center for School Change
    Macalester College

  6. Concerned Teacher

    Our choice of words, when applied loosely, creates inaccuracies. And, typically, we don't like to hear detractors, we prefer when everyone cheers and claps. But, there are issues that must be considered and determinations that need to be made.

    I do not deny these accomplishments. They are here, accurate, real and commendable. However, I do suggest caution and express what actually takes place along the way, based upon the reading I have done over the past several years on these wonder schools.

    I have been reading Linda Darling-Hammond's new book and I would love to see America move in the direction we have seen other nations move, but we must acknowledge what this actually requires and ask ourselves some tough questions. Some would prefer we not ask them.

    Do we really want to DO what it takes to whole scale improve education? And this doesn't just mean are teachers willing, wholesale, to work 60 hour workweeks. Are the rest of us willing to support such efforts in every way possible?

    Do these methods work with RANDOMLY selected inner city students, rather than just with those who have selected themselves and WILLINGLY signed up to participate? Certainly increasing classroom time by 60% in and of itself should make a difference in almost any case.

    When we evaluate something, we should endeavor to scrutinize what we are evaluating, and be cautious about generalizing. Does this generalize broadly and widely, or does it generalize only when specific factors are controlled?

    And lastly, do we want a professional teacher corps who are professionally compensated fairly for their efforts and (in these cases) extraordinarily long hours? Are we willing to tackle the question of how to attract millions of high caliber dedicated teachers and offer the realistic working conditions that allow them the time and energy to administer to their own personal and family lives? I submit that the grueling KIPP workweek (and I have read a good bit of literature on KIPP) does not, and this this leads to a high (documented) turnover in teaching staff, and therefore may not be a realistic solution on a large scale basis.

    Is this what we want? Great, then how can we get there without killing off the teaching staff? How important is this to us, and are we willing to do what this will take, not just our professional educators, but the rest of us?

    Deny the successes, never. Happy for those who are the success stories of these programs, indeed. Realistic? Perhaps.

    Real change is a thoughtful, step-by-step process and we should carefully construct our foundation so that it can support long term change and betterment. This is not a "band wagon" issue.

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March 6th, 2010

Jimmy Kilpatrick

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