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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

KIPP schools are game changers

KIPP charters are game changers, concludes a new Mathematica study. Compared to similar students who applied to KIPP but lost the enrollment lottery, graduates of KIPP middle and high schools were "31 percentage points more likely to enroll in a four-year college within three years of high school," reports Jo Napolitano on The 74. "Their likelihood of graduating college within five years after high school shot up by 19 percentage points."

That's huge. It is nearly enough to close the college completion gap between Black and Hispanic students and white students, researchers say.

KIPP, which started in Houston in 1994, now operates 117 elementary, 121 middle and 42 high schools in 21 states. Most students come from low-income black and Hispanic families.


KIPP has longer school days and years, says Shavar Jeffries, who became the KIPP Foundation CEO in January. Teacher use data to "differentiate our instruction based upon where a kid is at any given point in time.”


The network has invested in counseling to help students find a right-fit college or other postsecondary path. Counselors help alumni complete degrees and pursue careers.


Makala Faniel enrolled in KIPP WAYS Atlanta in fifth grade. Now 25, she's now pursuing a bioengineering doctorate at Georgia Tech, she told Napolitano.

College readiness was built into the curriculum, (Faniel) said, and counselors routinely helped students research universities, choose the right Advanced Placement courses to boost their chance of acceptance, fill out the Common Application and apply for key programs within a particular school.
Faniel visited the University of Pennsylvania as a middle schooler and would graduate from the college in 2020 with a degree in material science.

When Faniel was considered grad school, she reached out to former KIPP teachers for advice. "How do I apply? What do I need?”


Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews, who wrote a 2009 book about KIPP, Work Hard. Be Nice, notes that KIPP high school students are encouraged take Advanced Placement classes and tests to prepare for college.


"Fifteen KIPP high schools in Texas, Colorado, California and Tennessee rank in the top one percent of U.S. schools measured by rate of participation in AP and International Baccalaureate final exams," he writes. His Challenge Index includes several other charter networks focusing on low-income students, such as IDEA, Uncommon, Uplift and Success Academy.

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