The Promise of College Completion: KIPP's Early Successes and Challenges

The KIPP Foundation recently released a study of college completion rates of early
KIPP students and the results are both good and bad. The good news is that 33
percent of KIPP students that completed eighth grade 10 or more years ago have
gone on to graduate from a four-year college. This may strike readers as low,
but in context it illustrates a remarkable achievement:  Only 30.6 percent of Americans ages 25-29
have a four year degree as do only 8
of such students from low-income families. Thus, KIPPsters are four
times more likely to complete college than their peers from similar
demographics. The bad news is that KIPP falls dramatically short of its goal
that 75 percent of its students earn a four-year degree, and readily admits
that the goal has been harder to achieve than anticipated. The report
acknowledges that the number of kids these findings apply to is small: they
come from the first two KIPP schools that were opened in Houston and New York,
the only ones open long enough to have college graduates.  (The Fordham Foundation is the authorizer of
KIPP Journey Academy in Columbus, which was not included in this report.)

The report sets forth several action steps that KIPP will
take to try to meet their 75 percent goal, including a continued focus on academics
and character education; evolving their focus from just middle schools to pre-K
through 12 broadly; and improving college support to KIPP graduates (i.e.,
helping kids find a college that is the right fit, offering social and academic
support to students during their college years, etc).

Perhaps the biggest lesson to draw from this report is that
much of KIPP’s success lies in the fact that it is self-reflective,
transparent, and holds high expectations internally.  As many know, KIPP schools serve a high
percentage of minority and low-income students, so considering that only 8
percent of these kids would otherwise graduate from a four year college, KIPP’s
33 percent college completion rate is impressive. It’s likewise impressive that
33 percent is unacceptable for KIPP, despite the fact that KIPP has much to
celebrate -- recent data show that 89 percent of kids who completed a KIPP
middle school went on to enroll in college, compared with 62 percent of
students nationally and 41 percent of low-income students. Kudos to the KIPP
Foundation for its honest self-critique and for its position that simply doing
better than the status quo is not good enough.

 The Promise
of College Completion: KIPP’s Early Successes and Challenges

KIPP Foundation
April 2011