Oops, KIPP-ed it

Here’s an article about a study conducted by Western Michigan University on the KIPP charter school network which was started by some TFA alums many years back: http://www.wmich.edu/wmu/news/2011/04/009.html. The article raises some interesting questions/facts about KIPP schools, which is especially pertinent for Michigan since the idea has been bounced around of trying to bring a heavy KIPP charter school presence to Detroit.

The study points out interesting facts such as KIPP schools having an almost 40% attrition rate of African-American students between 6th-8th grade (oops), that KIPP schools enroll significantly lower percentages of ELL and special needs students compared to public schools in the same areas (double oops) and the fact that KIPP receives far more government and private funding than do public schools or other charter schools (this necessarily raises serious questions about the scaleability of KIPP schools).

Now, to be clear, I don’t have any problems directly with the facts revealed by this study. I think it is perfectly reasonable in most cases for a privately-run school or any other organization to set up standards/criteria for its members (in this case, students) to abide by and to kick (or ‘counsel’) those members out or not accept them in the first place if they don’t meet those standards (private schools, colleges, work places, etc. all do this – it’s part of life). These standards (in the case of a school) could involve behavioral, academic or any other kind of appropriate standard the school chooses to use – that’s completely fine in my book. However, I do have a serious issue with how KIPP sweeps these facts under the rug and refuses to be straight-forward and honest about their numbers/model. Statistics can be twisted in so many ways (esp. in education and double-especially in the current test-score fanaticism/privatization of schools education movement) and this is another perfect example. Typical corporate deceit. Being more honest and up-front about these numbers would obviously hurt KIPP’s funding base as well as dent its attempt to be perceived as the savior for poor black and Hispanic kids. It’s a blatant example of mis-information for the purposes of maintaining a false image/raising more money and I hope this story is one that mainstream media jumps on (although, I realize that’s sadly very unlikely).

About jasherwilliamson

Hi my name is John Williamson. I'm currently working as a Classroom Coach with a non-profit called College Forward in Austin, TX. Our goal is to get high school students (primarily ones from low-income and first generation backgrounds) into and through college. Originally, I'm from Washington state (Seattle-area) and I went to school at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA. Drop me a line if you want to know anything else about me... Peace and love,
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2 Responses to Oops, KIPP-ed it

  1. Stuart Buck says:

    The cited study on KIPP attrition is bogus; it doesn’t even have student-level data, and it just looks at enrollment patterns at KIPP schools vs. public school DISTRICTS, which is a completely invalid comparison.

    For the real facts on KIPP, look at this recent Mathematica study that looked at individual students (something Miron wasn’t able to do). KIPP attrition is no different from surrounding public schools. http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/KIPP_middle_schools_wp.pdf

  2. Stuart Buck says:

    Sorry, I misstated that: when Mathematica did an actual study that looked at actual kids, they found that KIPP has LOWER attrition for black males than other public schools do.

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