High levels of attrition, selectivity and government funding have positioned Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools as academic leaders, according to a national report published Thursday, which found that the charter network’s lauded outcomes in recent years have been a result of serving a distinct population of students while receiving high amounts of public funding.
The report was published by Western Michigan University, and jointly released by Columbia University, in addition to the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education. The study looked at “What Makes KIPP Work: A study of student characteristics, attrition and school finance,” basing its conclusions on publically available federal and local data.
KIPP runs two schools in Baltimore. The Knowledge Is Power Program opened the Ujima Village Academy, a middle school, in 2002. In 2009, KIPP opened an elementary school, KIPP Harmony Academy. Both are located in Northwest Baltimore, serving very low-income populations, and are among the best schools in the city.
But nationally, the report found, on average about 15 percent of students drop from KIPP cohorts every year, compared to 3 percent in public schools. Moreover, between grades 6 and 8, about 30 percent of KIPP students drop off of the rolls. The attrition rates in the report, which did not compare KIPP's attrition to similar schools in the district, or in neighboring districts, showed a "tremendous drop off" said the report's lead researcher, Gary Miron.
A very high number of students who disappear from the cohorts are African-American males, the report found. However, KIPP does serve primarily African-American students.
The report also concluded that KIPP's high outcomes, when compared to public schools, could be a result of serving significantly less special education students, and English language learners—two populations that are more prone to be less competitve academically and more expensive.
Steve Mancini, spokesman for KIPP, said Wednesday that while the organization welcomes being the subject of objective and rigorous assessments, the organization “rejected the core conclusions that the report is making” about the network’s success being tied to weeding out students--particularly because it did not compare attrition rates to comparable data of other schools.
Mancini said that KIPP received the report around noon Wednesday, about three days after national media--including the Baltimore Sun-- had received it, and didn’t have time to comb through it. But deep spot-analysis of some sections of the report showed “factual misrepresentations,” he said.
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