Good KIPP Bad KIPP

Today’s School of Thought column at TIME.com deals with what I see as a key issue in education today: We have these raging debates about various reforms but a look at outcomes shows that even the best ideas in practice today are still not shifting the curve the way we hope. Problem is, it’s hard to talk about that because it this highly politicized environment we are in today data are weaponized rather than discussed thoughtfully. Perhaps this new data release from KIPP today, which is both interesting and important, is a chance to change that:

A new report being released today will add to the debate about the Knowledge Is Power Program or KIPP schools — a highly influential non-profit network of public schools serving low-income students. The study is important because it’s the first large-scale look at the college completion rate for students in schools at the leading edge of today’s reform efforts. The results show that while KIPP graduates—who are 95 percent African-American and Latino and overwhelmingly low-income—far outpace the national averages for similar students, they also fall short of the network’s own goals: 33 percent of students who completed a KIPP middle school at least 10 years ago have a bachelor’s degree today. Among similar students nationwide, just 8 percent have graduated college.

Read the entire column here.

13 thoughts on “Good KIPP Bad KIPP

  1. Attorney DC

    Since KIPP has relatively high attrition rates (students leaving, who are not replaced by new students), I wonder what percentage of students who initially enroll in KIPP have graduated from college? It would be interesting to see the college completion rates for the ‘KIPP dropouts’ (my guess is that they’d still be higher than the comparable general population, but lower than KIPP graduates).

  2. Cal

    Much lower.

    KIPP’s is not a representative population. They are getting the top tenth or so of extremely low income students. Thus, what KIPP’s results say is that extremely motivated students with low skills and tons of support and all the money there is to spend aren’t going to do all that well in college.

    If you compare like populations between KIPP and public schools, you’ll find the stats roughly the same, I’d bet. If KIPP was even 10% higher than the same kids in public schools, then that’s not an argument for KIPP, but an argument for segregating highly motivated kids away from their destructive peers.

  3. tom

    “Thus, what KIPP’s results say is that extremely motivated students…”

    I thought motivation didn’t matter?

  4. Attorney DC

    Tom: Why wouldn’t student motivation matter? Are you being sarcastic? In my experience as a former teacher, student/family motivation to succeed in school is one of the BEST predictors of student success (holding SES constant).

  5. tom

    So what if [kids] are interested? What proof do you have that this interest has any impact at all on academic achievement? Find me some cites that demonstrate a causal link between active interest in academic future and test results. No correlation allowed.

  6. Cal

    I think Tom is lamely attempting sarcasm, based on his complete misinterpretation of my point.

    Students who are intrinsically motivated to do well in school will, on average, do better than kids who don’t care, all things being equal. Ability generally trumps motivation, though. Kids who leave public school’s less than optimal environment to go to KIPP are signaling intrinsic motivation. And there’s plenty of research supporting that.

    Tom thinks that I’ve said that motivation doesn’t matter, which is not true. What I said was that a phony, contrived, back to school day in middle school has not been shown to increase academic achievement (not motivation) and that there’s no evidence that the kids who weren’t motivated before something like that are now motivated.

    But, you know, Tom’s got comprehension problems and he’s upset that I’m not grovelling before the TFA god.

    “student/family motivation to succeed in school is one of the BEST predictors of student success (holding SES constant).”

    As I said, ability trumps motivation in terms of intrinsic academic achievement. (Grades aren’t accurate assessors of academic achievement).

  7. tom

    Well, what you actually said was:

    “So what if [kids] are interested? What proof do you have that this interest has any impact at all on academic achievement? Find me some cites that demonstrate a causal link between active interest in academic future and test results. No correlation allowed.”

    I’m surprised you can’t see the irony here. When someone documents kids showing interest in their education you decry it as baseless speculation. On the other hand, there is no evidence that KIPP kids are different than their peers and you’re ready to jump on the creaming wagon with literally no proof. Actually the best study we have shows KIPP kids are similar to their peers demographically and academically.

    So to you I say: “Find me some cites that demonstrate a causal link between active interest in academic future and [Attending KIPP]. No correlation allowed.”

  8. Chris Smyr

    tom beat me to it

    “So what if [kids] are interested [in their futures]?” is genuinely one of the funniest things I’ve read here in a long time.

  9. notownedbyabillionaire

    KIPP is a great success they have proven what can be done under ideal, probably artificial circumstances. School quality matters, unfortunately not a whole lot.

    The leverage point is outside of schools, this is what the research and common sense tells us, but its hard for “education reformers” to acknowledge. We can’t continue to create a more unequal society and expect k-12 schools to a socio economic gap that continues to widen.

    There will always be a segment of the population calling themselves reformers, funneling money into pockets of consultants and charter school operators insisting that we can close the achievement gap if only we get rid of unions and provide more choices. Studies like this will never make the education reformers take a look at the bigger picture of student achievement.

    Data not looked at in the study – How did the skimming effect students left in public schools and counseled back into public school.

  10. Cal

    “So what if [kids] are interested [in their futures]?”

    As in, quantify the advantage, goofball. In other words, it might SEEM to you like a good thing, but is it good? What’s the metric? Is it better to have 12 year old kids with IQs of 115 who could care less about college, or kids with IQs of 90 who participate in college night but don’t really understand what it means? Does it change the metric if the kids have IQS of 90 but *do* really understand it? Do they do better than uninvested kids?

    These are all highly relevant questions, and it really bothers me when some idiotic reporter posts a glowing review of a 22 year old who got kids to put up posters and ask questions and attend dumbed down sessions (and, by the way, she cashed a chip by getting the Princeton connection) as if this will make a difference. What if these kids can’t read? Is it a good idea to waste their time doing this? Will they be ushered into college by teachers who give them a transcript full of hard work and no achievement and they end up in debt taking nothing but remedial courses?

    But no, let’s all feel good because a bunch of 12 year olds had a back to school night.

    As I said at the time, it’s blatantly obvious you can’t understand complex thought, so I imagine all this is beyond you.

    BTW, in the case of KIPP, I am assuming most of the kids have relatively low cognitive abilities, so the only major differentiator is incentive.

    “On the other hand, there is no evidence that KIPP kids are different than their peers ”

    This is simply untrue.

  11. Attorney DC

    Cal said: “As I said, ability trumps motivation in terms of intrinsic academic achievement.”

    From my teaching experience, I don’t think that is correct. While it may be true that a particularly bright student can study less / care less about school, but still do pretty well on his exams in regular high school classes, I’m looking at the bigger picture of low-income, minority students who have SUCH low motivation that they actually don’t come to school or even take their exams. These students (and they are not a small number) may skip class to the point of failing, or never bring books home or study at all.

    When I taught low-income, minority students (in both public and private schools), the students who made an effort to come to class, do some of their homework, pay attention to the teacher, and generally behave in class would often get at least B’s, regardless of their ‘intrinic ability’ (excluding students with extremely low IQ, such as those with Down’s syndrome). However, the other students (no matter how bright) who skipped class, acted out, threw their homework assignments in the garbage, etc. tended to fail.

  12. tom

    I’m reposting this so that you’ll actually address it Cal:

    Well, what you actually said was:

    “So what if [kids] are interested? What proof do you have that this interest has any impact at all on academic achievement? Find me some cites that demonstrate a causal link between active interest in academic future and test results. No correlation allowed.”

    I’m surprised you can’t see the irony here. When someone documents kids showing interest in their education you decry it as baseless speculation. On the other hand, there is no evidence that KIPP kids are different than their peers and you’re ready to jump on the creaming wagon with literally no proof. Actually the best study we have shows KIPP kids are similar to their peers demographically and academically.

    So to you I say: “Find me some cites that demonstrate a causal link between active interest in academic future and [Attending KIPP]. No correlation allowed.”

  13. tom

    I take it Cal is compiling a bibliography, so I’ll cut him some slack on not responding.

    Attorney, I don’t disagree with you. But I do believe that a strong, positive school culture can begin to change children’s attitudes towards school. I’d imagine you don’t disagree with that either, right?

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