Despite below-average test scores in third and fourth grade, KIPP students make substantial gains in math and reading in fifth through eighth grade, concludes a Mathematica study of 22 schools. In half the schools in the study, KIPP students — nearly all low-income and black or Hispanic — made progress equal to an extra year of math and reading instruction, substantially reducing the achievement gap.
Compared to the public schools from which they draw students, KIPP middle schools have student bodies characterized by higher concentrations of poverty and racial minorities, but lower concentrations of special education and limited English proficiency students.
“The consistency of the effects across most of the 22 schools and the magnitude of the effects are pretty striking and impressive,” said Brian P. Gill, a senior social scientist for Mathematica and an author of the study. “We do a lot of education studies, and often the effects are nonexistent or quite small.”
KIPPsters are more likely to repeat a grade, especially in fifth and sixth grade, because of KIPP’s reluctance to move students to the next level without mastery of the current grade’s subject matter.
The study compares demographically similar students in the same districts. Presumably parents who sign their children up for KIPP are more motivated and involved than average. But the study found KIPP students were scoring below the district average in elementary school, so that parental involvement hadn’t translated into success pre-KIPP.
Three KIPP schools out of the 22 studied did not show progress. The KIPP Foundation has withdrawn support for two of those schools. Since KIPP’s founding, nine of 91 schools have lost KIPP support for failure to meet standards.
The study will continue through 2014 and will expand to include 50 KIPP schools. Students who spend a year at KIPP and then return to district-run schools will be counted as KIPP students, points out Jay Mathews. If less-capable students are more likely to leave, that won’t help KIPP’s results.