April 28, 2011

KIPP Schools: A Reform Triumph, or Disappointment?

By By Andrew J. Rotherham

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A new report being released today will add to the debate about the Knowledge Is Power Program or KIPP schools — a highly influential non-profit network of public schools serving low-income students. The study is important because it’s the first large-scale look at the college completion rate for students in schools at the leading edge of today’s reform efforts. The results show that while KIPP graduates—who are 95 percent African-American and Latino and overwhelmingly low-income—far outpace the national averages for similar students, they also fall short of the network’s own goals: 33 percent of students who completed a KIPP middle school at least 10 years ago have a bachelor’s degree today. Among similar students nationwide, just 8 percent have graduated college.

The study has implications for the growing array of schools with missions and methods similar to KIPP because it begs the question: Is 33 percent an enormous achievement given the challenging environments that KIPP operates in? Or, conversely, should KIPP be achieving better results given the intensive support KIPP students receive?

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