KIPPed

I posted a link last week from the book discussion that ES hosted on Jay Mathews’ new book about KIPP.  You can listen yourself.  The thing that jumps out at me from the discussion, and the discussion of KIPP more generally, is that both poles of this debate are missing what going on here.   In the case of the most enthusiastic KIPP proponents,  they underestimate just how difficult this work is and the enormity of the challenges of achieving KIPP-like results at scale.  Richard Barth’s comments at the event were a sober reminder of that.  KIPP’s doing an amazing job, but the work is intense and ongoing.  In the case of KIPP detractors, they’re missing all the things that KIPP does that the broader system could learn from — really intentional training, a results-focused culture, etc…when they dismiss KIPP as sui generis, or worse as some sort of scam.

Posted on Feb 2, 2009 @ 9:30am

One thought on “KIPPed

  1. John

    One of the things that seems to get lost in the politics of all of this is that figuring out how to create both a high performing and scalable network of schools that is sustainable for the adults is tough. This is the “business” side of the problem and is very similar to other businesses. KIPP has some problems with their business model, which I think they would readily admit to. It’s important not to generalize KIPP’s business model problem into a “charter school” business model problem, because lots of people are organized in very different ways than KIPP. I would expect that the KIPP folks would acknowledge a fair number of these problems, but on the outside I would say that several of the core problems with their business model are:

    1 – serving 320 students at a school does not work financially, 400 is the minimum number. If KIPP served 100 kids per grade instead of 80 at middle, they would have to change their program a bit to continue getting great results, but they would figure it out. Once they did, they would lower their fundraising per school almost to 0.

    2 – KIPP started as a pure franchise with very little administrative support from KIPP Central. That means that Principals are instructional leaders, leaders of staff, and have to figure out a myriad of operational and financial issues to make their schools run. KIPP Central could go a long way to eliminating the third, and then they need to decide if splitting the leadership roles is more effective. Many KIPP principals are much better instructional leaders (i.e. with the kids) than leaders of adults, which is one key thing that leads to staff turnover.

    3 – KIPP has no real facilities plan other than getting them from districts. This is changing in Houston, but in general the cash flow from the schools is not sufficient to develop facilities, which is the first step to cracking this nut. Without figuring this out, growth will always be limited.

    4 – KIPP has not innovated in any way within their schools financially, such that their schools are more financially viable (profit margin in the business world). This is key if you are looking to fund more central office work, split the leadership roles, develop facilities, etc.

    KIPP is the first organization to crack the barrier of both high performance and scalability. Many of us route for them to figure out the business of schools so that each KIPP school is sustainable and they can grow to serve every under-served child in the country.

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