KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of public (mostly charter) schools that operate in low-income urban areas — such as KIPP Bridge, in West Oakland. With longer school days (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and every other Saturday), high social and academic expectations, and teachers recruited from top universities, KIPP schools are designed to give kids opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Its motto is “Work hard. Be nice.”
KIPP schools’ test scores are generally much higher than those of their local school districts, and the model has received glowing media coverage for narrowing the achievement gap. Still, some skeptics suggest that the schools “cherry pick” the brightest students from local elementary schools. Some have called attention to the large number of Bay Area kids who leave KIPP schools before they finish the eighth grade. Others wonder whether such long work days will take a toll on the teaching staff.
Researchers from SRI International addressed some of these questions in a detailed study released today about the Bay Area’s five KIPP middle schools, including West Oakland’s KIPP Bridge (a former district school that converted to a charter last year). You can see the full report here.
The authors poked a few holes in the cherry-picking charge. They actually found that students who enroll at Bay Area KIPP schools tend to have lower test scores, coming in, than their peers who didn’t enroll at KIPP — not the other way around. They also concluded that KIPPsters tend to make above-average progress in fifth and sixth grades, compared to national norms.
But the report includes a somewhat startling statistic: About 60 percent of Bay Area KIPP kids who entered the fifth grade in 2003-04 transferred out before they graduated middle school.
Kids aren’t the only ones to come and go from the Bay’s KIPP schools. The report cited teacher turnover rates ranging from 18 to 49 percent. KIPP teachers reported spending 65 hours a week on school-related activities, compared to the 52 hours reported by the average urban middle school teacher.
On the other hand, the authors noted that KIPP’s teachers are so carefully selected that faculty members say it’s hard to tell who is a beginner.
With all of this in mind, do you think KIPP is a model that should be more broadly replicated in public education? Is it sustainable?
Whatever your opinion, if you’re interested in school reform, charter schools, or KIPP, in general, this report is worth a read. Well, at least the executive summary…