Attrition doesn’t explain KIPP’s success

KIPP students gain an additional eight to 11 months of learning in reading and math over three years, compared to students in nearby middle schools,say Mathematica researchersStudent attrition doesn’t explain KIPP’s success, they write in Education Next.

KIPP middle schools and the district-run schools nearby have similar attrition patterns: Lower achievers are more likely at both kinds of schools.

What’s different is that KIPP schools admit fewer transfers in seventh and eighth grade and late entrants tend to be higher achieving than those who started in fifth grade.

However, most KIPP gains occur in the first year, before anyone’s left or transferred,  say the Mathematica analysts.


Compared to feeder elementary schools, KIPP students are more likely to be black or Latino and low-income. They are slightly less likely to be English Learners or in special education. Prior achievement is the same.

However, it’s hard to measure “parent characteristics, prior motivation, or student behavior,” the researchers write. “For example, KIPP students might benefit from attending school with peers who are especially motivated to accept KIPP’s academic and behavioral demands.”

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  1. If that’s the case, then it raises the question of whether KIPP would be better utilized as a one-year program. It also raises the question of why that one year would make such a difference, while subsequent years in the same program seem roughly on par with the average public school.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    As just about everyone knows, losing weight is relatively easy. Keeping it off is hard. Maybe something like that is going on here.

    Or maybe the better analogy is getting in shape. If an out of shape person starts an exercise program, and sticks with it for a year, the improvement will be pretty impressive. But later years may not show much improvement at all.

    Attrition certainly is not the only reason for KIPP’s success but equally certainly it is one reason. To a large extent, the people who leave are the people who are tired of eating less, tired of working out four days a week, tired of long school days and lots of work. They are the ones who will relapse and will take some of their classmates with them.