New KIPP Schools Seen as Faithful to Model, Despite Variations

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As the Knowledge Is Power Program pursues plans for further expansion, a recent study takes a closer look “under the hood” of KIPP’s model for educating disadvantaged students.

The first report from a three-year independent evaluation suggests that five relatively new KIPP charter schools in the San Francisco Bay area appear to be operating in keeping with the KIPP mission, even as their approaches vary.

The five pillars that help define the KIPP school network—such as high expectations for students and extended learning time—were “evident across the schools,” says the report by SRI International, a Menlo, Calif.-based research institute.

“From classroom work to student behavior, all five Bay Area KIPP schools have translated high expectations into actions with visible results,” finds the report, released last month and underwritten by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, also in Menlo Park.

“You walk into a KIPP school and you know it’s a KIPP school,” said Jane L. David, the director of the Bay Area Research Group, who is helping to conduct the SRI study. “We were impressed by what we knew in advance and saw firsthand.”

While emphasizing that the results are preliminary, the report says two sets of test-score data suggest the schools are posting gains beyond what would be expected in most subjects and grade levels, given the student demographics.

Room for Improvement

The report does suggest areas for improvement, including for principals.

“Given the demands of the job and the KIPP emphasis on culture and discipline, academic leadership varies widely across the five schools,” the study notes. “As a result, teachers are mostly on their own to develop their academic programs.”

KIPP officials downplayed that finding, saying the variation is far less than across public schools generally. They also note that, under California’s annual “similar schools” ranking, which compares schools with similar demographics, the five Bay Area schools have high ratings.

Ms. David seconded that assessment.

“The KIPP folks are absolutely right,” she said. “If you go into any urban school, especially an urban middle school, strong instructional leadership is an extreme rarity. … Compared to urban schools, then, there are no grounds for concern at all.”

Vol. 25, Issue 31, Page 19

Published in Print: April 12, 2006, as New KIPP Schools Seen as Faithful to Model, Despite Variations
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