External Author Name: 
Amy Fagan

SRI International
September 2008

This study examines the effectiveness of five Bay Area KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools. By analyzing test data, interviewing staff, holding focus groups with families, observing activities, and conducting surveys, the study hopes to determine if KIPP--a network of highly-praised schools that sets high academic and behavioral expectations, requires extended class time, and carefully tracks student progress--is truly as spectacular as proponents say--and why. The results are, frankly, mixed. The study finds that KIPP students do indeed make above-average progress compared with national norms and that fifth graders who enter KIPP with below-average scores significantly outperform peers in public school by the end of their first year. Could this success possibly be due to "cherry-picking" the brightest students? Researchers confronted this allegation head-on and found it false. In fact, Bay Area students with lower scores on the California Standard Test were more likely to choose KIPP than higher-performing students from the same neighborhood. Unfortunately, however, the lowest-performing students were also more likely to leave their KIPP school for various reasons, including moving to another neighborhood, finding it "not the right fit," and searching for schools better equipped to handle children with special needs. A full 60 percent of students who began fifth grade in the 2003 cohort left before completing eighth grade. Despite high attrition rates, we're pleased to see KIPP's drive for self-evaluation. If only all charter schools could be so transparent and bold. Read the full study, here.

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