Study: KIPP kids learn more

Students who won a lottery to attend a KIPP school in Lynn, Massachusetts learned more in the following three years than those who applied but lost the lottery, concludes a working paper posted on the National Bureau of Economic Research site.

The school predominantly serves Hispanic students, many of whom are still learning English, reports Inside School Research.

MIT, Harvard and University of Michigan researchers found overall learning gains for KIPP lottery winners with the biggest gains for “English-language learners, special education students, and those who started out with low baseline scores.” In other words, the school did the most for the kids with the greatest needs.

The study also challenges the idea that KIPP schools have high attrition rates by offering some evidence that, in this case at least, the lottery winners were actually less likely to change schools.

With a longer school day and year, KIPP students spend a lot more time in school than students at traditional public schools, Debra Viadero notes. That seems to pay off.

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  1. As always, a “working paper” not subject to peer review.

  2. Don Bemont says:

    This is very interesting. Different sorts of folks will extrapolate from this quite differently, but I would really like to know. To what extent are the lottery winners in KIPP schools doing better than the lottery losers in public schools because of:
    • Students being able to escape populations dominated by unmotivated peers?
    • The ability of a KIPP school to at least threaten to eliminate students for non-attendance, disruption, not doing the work?
    • The power of choice: parents and students feeling a commitment after actively choosing?
    • The increased energy created among adults in a newly started program?
    • The elimination of requirements and traditions that work against academic focus?
    • Ability to exclude uncommitted and/or untalented teachers?
    • The program’s ability to attract a different kind of teacher altogether?
    • Longer instructional period (the point the linked article assumes to be crucial)?
    • Specific program content?
    • Specific instructional techniques?
    Many (most?) readers of this study are going to assume they know which of these factors actually produced the improved results, with the left and the right harboring quite different assumptions. But wouldn’t it be great if we could really know the answer. 🙂

  3. Yay! I’m glad to see that this sort of research has been done. I’ve been wondering about that for some time. The question I have that remains is how long teachers stay at KIPP schools compared to schools with similar levels of student achievement.

  4. One school does not a trend make.

  5. tim-10-ber says:

    MAybe one school does not make a trend but the kids at this KIPP school got opportunities and an education they never would have received in their default government school. There are still lessons to be learned from this one school…

  6. We’re doing some work with our African American students that specifically addresses peer climate. We’ve tried dozens of things to reduce the gap and this seems to be the one that is actually making it budge — significantly. So that’s one thing on Don’s list that is probably a strong factor. Not that the others aren’t contributing — in fact, success is often the result of many factors working well in concert (a big reason why just switching out curriculum, firing all the teachers, buying into some new program, etc. are often ineffective initiatives).


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