Thursday, March 31, 2011

KIPP schools failing to match hype

Knowledge is Power Program schools come highly recommended in documentary films like Waiting for Superman. KIPP schools are touted by charter advocates as success stories in raising academic achievement among low-income and minority students.

But all too often, studies reveal that schools promoted by ideologically blinkered education "reformers" tend to cover up their failures and fudge their successes.

Such a study now raises questions about claims made for the KIPP franchise. In this article, Education Week reporter Mary Ann Zehr writes that 40 percent of the black male students enrolled in KIPP schools drop out in between grades six and eight.

That figure comes from a study out of Western Michigan University. The author of the study, Professor Gary J. Miron, says, “The dropout rate for African-American males is really shocking. KIPP is doing a great job of educating students who persist, but not all who come.”

The study acknowledges KIPP's successes, but also explores reasons why KIPP schools, like other semi-public schools, has advantages that cannot be replicated in traditional public schools, and probably cannot be translated into a larger universe.

KIPP schools, for example, spend about $6,500 more per student than other public schools in the same districts. Most of the extra comes from private donations and grants. That is funding which is simply not available to traditional public schools which, if similarly resourced, might show similar academic achievement.

KIPP schools, the study notes, serve fewer students with limited English or who are disabled. The report concludes that “The limited range of students that KIPP serves, its inability to serve all students who enter, and its dependence on local traditional public schools to receive and serve the droves of students who leave, all speak loudly to the limitations of this model.”

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