Power to the Children

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The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) will, this summer, have 99 charter schools serving over 25,000 students in 20 states and the nation’s capital. KIPP has just posted a study conducted by Mathematica (www.kipp.org/mathematica). The results are astounding, as both KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg noted in a Houston Chronicle article:

“This is great news for the people who have already had faith in us,” he said. “For the people who have been on the fence, I hope this makes them true believers.”

And Nelson Smith, head of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, noted,

“It helps demolish some of the myths that people hold about KIPP,” Smith said. “Some of the ways people have tried to excuse or explain KIPP’s success just don’t hold water.”

As noted in the EducationWeek piece covering the study, the Mathematica team was clear in noting higher achievement, but also that KIPP student achievement was not gained through “skimming” (neither through selective recruitment nor pushing out low performers. The study made clear that KIPP schools often recruit students whose average fourth-grade achievement is below the district average. And KIPP has higher retention rates than the district schools.

Now, I am sure some commenters (hi, Artie45!) will continue to call charters a scam, and I welcome them to say whatever they’d like. But to people who are willing to weigh the evidence and do not have a horse in this race other than a desire to see all kids have access to a great education, this is great news.

As Brian Gill, the senior researcher and author of the Mathematica report, notes for EdWeek:

“The consistency of the effects across most of the 22 schools and the magnitude of the effects are pretty striking and impressive.”

At about half the KIPP schools, the study found that the gains in math for students after three years in the schools were equivalent of 1.2 years of extra instruction, and .9 years of additional instruction in reading, Mr. Gill said.

All this should be familiar news. The student achievement gains found at KIPP are large – in some schools closing the achievement gap in three years – approaching those found in the Boston Foundation-commissioned study on Boston charters. The students KIPP is serving are more likely to be in poverty and students of color, though they serve fewer special needs and ELL students. Ditto Boston charters. They are not skimming; ditto Boston charters. And they have higher retention rates than the district schools; notwithstanding all the noise from charter opponents, ditto Boston charters.

Crossposted to Boston.com: Rock the Schoolhouse.