Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Questions on KIPP Study

From Leonie:

Unfortunately, this report is not online yet; whether it was KIPP or Mathematica who leaked it in advance to the WaPost and Houston Chronicle before people could read it for themselves seems to me to be a rather questionable practice.

Excerpt from WaPost article: “By seventh grade, half of the KIPP schools studied showed growth in math scores equal to an additional 1.2 years of school.”

What about the other half? This is a weird way to present results.

But attrition rates at the KIPP schools, measuring the portion of students who failed to complete four years at the schools, varied widely. In a third of the schools studied, attrition was significantly higher than in other local public schools

Did this third of schools overlap with the schools that hadbetter results?

In the Houston Chronicle story http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7067226.html the authors say:

"What we're finding is results that are positive," said Brian Gill, a senior social scientist with Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a Princeton, N.J.-based nonprofit research group. "They're statistically significant in most cases, and they're educationally big."

Statistically significant in most cases?

…. Researchers concede that KIPP schools enroll fewer special education students and non-English speakers. They also note that more lower-performing students end up withdrawing from KIPP.

"It is true that the ones who leave are lower achieving than average, but that tends to be true of kids leaving any school," Gill said. "Kids who are highly mobile tend to be lower performers."

Interesting way to report the push-out problem.

However, an initial analysis of the report by Professor Gary Miron of Western Michigan University concludes that this initial study report misrepresents the attrition data.

According to Miron, "While it may be true that attrition rates for KIPP schools and surrounding districts are similar, there is a big difference: KIPP does not generally fill empty places with the weaker students who are moving from school to school. Traditional public schools must receive all students who wish to attend, so the lower-performing students leaving KIPP schools receive a place in those schools."

In contrast, Miron explains, "The lower performing, transient students coming from traditional public schools are not given a place in KIPP, since those schools generally only take students in during the initial intake grade, whether this be 5th or 6th grade."….

Professor Miron conducted his own quick analysis, using the Common Core database, and concluded that there is a 19% drop in enrollment in KIPP schools between grades 6 and 7 and a 24% drop in enrollment between grades 7 and 8. (This analysis only included KIPP schools that had enrollments in all three grades). In comparison, traditional public schools in these grades maintain the same enrollment from year to year.

In addition, the study shows, KIPP does enroll fewer sped and ELL students.

I also have seen no response so far to the argument that much of the gains are due to peer effects; which in turn relies upon the ability of KIPP to weed out low-performing or poorly behaved students.

Report finds KIPP students outscore public school peers


By Bill Turque

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Middle school students in the Knowledge Is Power Program, a charter school network with a major footprint in the District and other cities, significantly outperform their public school peers on reading and math tests, according to a new study.

But the report, from Mathematica Policy Research, to be made public Tuesday, is unlikely to resolve debate over what is behind the network's success. Skeptics say that the program benefits from highly motivated parents seeking alternatives to ineffective public schools and that KIPP often winnows out students who don't fit its program.

The study, which KIPP commissioned, comes as the Obama administration is promoting the spread of strong charter schools as a strategy to improve urban education.

Founded in Houston in 1994 by two young alumni of Teach for America, KIPP has grown into a national network of 82 schools -- including seven in the District -- that serve children from low-income backgrounds. KIPP students put in a longer day than most of their public school counterparts, attending class from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays. Many are also in class every other Saturday and for three weeks over the summer. A rigorous incentive system penalizes students for poor behavior and missed assignments. "Work hard, be nice" is the credo.

KIPP schools routinely outscore many that serve middle-class students. Its three middle schools in the District -- KEY, WILL and AIM academies, with a combined enrollment of 960 -- are among the city's highest-performing on the DC-CAS standardized tests.

Mathematica studied 22 KIPP middle schools, including AIM and KEY, comparing test scores of charter students to scores of selected students in regular public schools who matched their academic and demographic backgrounds. Researchers examined test data starting in third grade. KIPP middle schools begin in fifth.

By seventh grade, half of the KIPP schools studied showed growth in math scores equal to an additional 1.2 years of school. Reading gains for KIPP were not as dramatic but still significant, the researchers reported, reflecting an additional three-quarters of a year of growth.

Mathematica said it found no evidence that KIPP schools were systematically drawing students with more economic advantages from surrounding school systems. But attrition rates at the KIPP schools, measuring the portion of students who failed to complete four years at the schools, varied widely. In a third of the schools studied, attrition was significantly higher than in other local public schools. In another third of the KIPP schools, the rate was lower. Skeptics say that students who can't function in the rigorous school culture are often pushed out -- a claim that KIPP rejects.

Richard Barth, chief executive of the KIPP Foundation, called the study "powerful affirmation" of the program's approach.

"It is really reassuring to us and our parents and teachers that the hard work pays off," said Susan Schaeffler, executive director of KIPP schools in the District. "But there's nothing in here that would surprise my teachers. They are on the front lines doing the hard work every day."

In subsequent studies, researchers plan to examine 50 KIPP schools and drill further into the question of parental influence on achievement. Future studies also will compare students who won KIPP admission by random lottery with those who sought admission but did not win.

In addition, Mathematica is completing a study for the U.S. Education Department of 40 charter schools in 16 states that use lotteries to determine admission. Results are expected this summer.

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