Here’s the first quote that really grabbed my attention from the study I’m reading on KIPP Schools:

"On average, KIPP middle schools have student bodies characterized by higher concentrations of poverty and racial minorities, but lower concentrations of special education and limited English proficiency LEP) students, than the public schools from which they draw." (Gleason et al. 2010, p14)

This suggests to me that KIPP schools are being selective. As soon as there is a statistically significant disparity in the enrollment policies of a school, one begins to suspect if the students are being chosen. The fact that the student population is poorer and more diverse than the typical public school is good but the fact that the KIPP population has fewer special needs and ESL students is worrisome. Common sense dictates that these students are more expensive to educate and will require more resources.

Here’s another quote which drew my attention because the study fails to draw a really important conclusion from this inference they make.

"By year three, half of the KIPP schools in our sample are producing math impacts of 0.48 standard deviations or more, equivalent to the effect of moving a student from the 30th percentile to the 48th percentile on a typical test distribution. Compared to national norms during this grade span, a 0.48 effect size after three years represents 1.2 years of accumulated extra growth in mathematics over the three year period (Bloom et al. 2008). For comparison, the black-white test core gap in math is typically estimated as approximately one standard deviation at fourth grade and eighth grade. (Bloom et al. 2008)" (Gleason et al. 2010, p17)

What serious omission are they making at this point? Observing that KIPP students spend much more time in school than do their counterparts is pretty important here, particularly when comparing them on scales which are largely dependent on how much time learning the material students spend. In fact, given that the typical KIPP student spends an extra 2 hours in study each day and 1 extra month in school (1600 hours) compared to the typical public school student (1080 hours), we might hope to see a larger improvement than 1.2 times.

The study does point out that most KIPP schools are doing better than their local counterparts. This isn’t too surprising to me if you look at the previous two quotes: they are selective in their choice of students, students spend way more time in their schools.

I wonder how KIPP schools would fare if students spent the same amount of time as a typical school, or if every student was equally likely to be accepted to their programs. I also wonder what would happen if we measured the success of schools on a broader set of standards than just their performance on some standardized test. What would the creativity index of a typical KIPP student be, I wonder?

References:

Bloom, H., Hill,C., Rebeck Black A., & Lipsey, M., (2008). Performance Trajectories and Performance Gaps as Achievement Effect-Size Benchmarks for Educational Interventions, MDRC Working Papers on Research Methodology.

Gill, B., Gleason, P., Nichols-Barrer, I., Teh, B., Tuttle, C. (2010) Student Characteristics and Achievement in 22 KIPP Middle Schools, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., June 2010, retrieved from http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/kipp_fnlrpt.pdf on October 17th, 2010