A new study by Mathematica Policy Research into the comparative performance of KIPP charter schools finds that, on average, in mathematics KIPP students get the equivalent of 11 months of additional teaching by the time they leave middle school compared to their peers in traditional public schools. What is more impressive is the fact that KIPP schools typically draw students who underperform their classmates prior to enrolling in the charters.
The researchers compared those who won a spot in a KIPP school in a lottery to those whose families entered them in the lottery but who weren't selected. The method was used to account for differing level of enthusiasm and commitment to academics between families that attempt to get their children into charters and those that don't.
During the first four years at KIPP, students move from the 46th percentile in reading and the 44th in math to the 55th and 58th percentiles. The research compared KIPP students to similar students in neighborhood schools as well as to students who entered the KIPP lottery but didn't get a seat, meaning their families were just as motivated as those who attend KIPP, researchers said.
The results of the study showed that the academic gains weren't limited to mathematics. In reading, KIPP students made gains equivalent to an additional 8 months of schooling in three years. The science results were even more impressive. In the three years students attended KIPP schools, they received what amounts to an additional 14 months of learning, compared to their counterparts in other schools.
Nor were the impressive outcomes the consequence of "teaching to the test." The researchers administered a TerraNova exam, a commonly used test to compare academic outcomes among different student populations – for which the kids received no preparation. Furthermore, the exam itself was consequence-free both to those who took and those who administered it.
Mathematica senior fellow and study director Philip Gleason said, "KIPP is making important strides to close achievement gaps for disadvantaged students. Findings from this large and comprehensive evaluation show that KIPP schools lead to educationally meaningful increases in student achievement, not just in basic reading and math, but in a broader set of subjects, including science and social studies."
In addition to quantitative analysis of student achievement, researchers also polled parents, kids and school staff to determine if enrolling in KIPP school had impact outside the classroom. It turned out that being exposed to the KIPP philosophy changed the students attitude about academics and completed nearly an hour more homework per night than their peers.