School & District Management

KIPP Students Found to Have Edge in Academics But Not Attitude

By Liana Loewus — September 22, 2015 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A new study of KIPP, a large charter network serving mainly low-income black and Hispanic students, finds that its schools continue to have a positive impact overall on student achievement, and yet they show no effect on student motivation, engagement, or behavior.

The findings echo previous results, which determined that the charter schools outpace traditional public schools in achievement gains.

Elementary and middle school students at KIPP, or Knowledge Is Power Program, schools had significantly larger gains in reading and math than their peers at non-KIPP schools, according to the study commissioned by KIPP and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research.

In high schools, achievement results were mixed. The impact was statistically significantly positive for those students who were new to KIPP. But for students who had attended a KIPP middle school, going to a KIPP high school did not have an added benefit.

The KIPP network has expanded rapidly in recent years, going from 45 schools in 2005 to more than 180 schools serving 70,000 students today. In 2010, the KIPP Foundation received a $50 million federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant, which allowed it to double the number of students it served over five years. The study released last week, the final report in the long-running Mathematica evaluation funded under i3, aimed to see how the expansion affected school quality.

“As KIPP has scaled, the network has continued to demonstrate the kinds of positive impacts demonstrated in previous studies,” Christina Tuttle, the report’s lead author, said in a Sept. 16 webinar.

Scope of Research

For this latest study, the researchers gathered data from eight elementary, 43 middle, and 18 high schools using a combination of lottery-based and quasi-experimental designs. They looked at results from state-administered assessments, assessments from researchers, and student and parent surveys.

At the elementary level, the impact of getting into a KIPP school was, after two years, equivalent to improving a student’s score on a reading test from the 78th to the 84th percentile. In math, KIPP elementary students scored at the 68th percentile on a calculation test, compared to their non-KIPP peers, who scored at the 58th percentile.

Critics of KIPP have long said low performers and students who lack parental support tend to drop out or not enroll, which inflates the charters’ scores. For this study, students who were chosen by lottery to attend KIPP schools but did not enroll or left midyear were counted as KIPP students. Those who entered the lottery but were not chosen constituted the control group. The aim was to ensure “that treatment and control group students are similar at baseline,” the report says.

For middle school, the researchers were able to look at student achievement over 10 years. They found that, overall, KIPP middle school students improved more in math, reading, science, and social studies than their peers at non-KIPP schools.

The impact of getting into a KIPP middle school was equivalent to a student moving from the 37th to the 44th percentile in reading over two years. In math, it was equal to going from the 40th to the 50th percentile.

But the size of the impacts in math and reading declined from 2005 to 2014. “Undoubtedly, the largest impacts occurred in the earliest years of KIPP,” said Philip Gleason, the principal investigator. The effect size peaked in 2006 and fell, yet remained statistically significantly positive, from there.

During the five years of the federal i3 grant (2010-2014), the number of schools expanded rapidly but the effect size “remained fairly steady,” noted Gleason.

“I think it shows that organizations like KIPP can grow pretty substantially while maintaining quality,” said Chris Torres, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Montclair State University in New Jersey. He was not part of the study but has researched charter organizations like KIPP. But he cautioned against holding up KIPP as a model for all schools, given its longer school days and demands on teachers.

KIPP high schools provided an academic boost for students who were new to the system, but not for those who had attended KIPP middle schools. The researchers noted that a large proportion of students who attended KIPP middle schools but not KIPP high schools went to other college-preparatory private, magnet, or high-performing charter schools.

No Motivation Effects

Perhaps the most surprising finding from the report was this: KIPP schools had no statistically significant impact on most measures of student motivation, engagement, behavior, or educational aspirations.

KIPP schools are known for their efforts in character education. (Their motto is “Work Hard. Be Nice.”) They also emphasize college preparation.

“Either they aren’t accomplishing what they intend to accomplish, or they’re affecting achievement in spite of not affecting the things they feel are critical to achievement,” said Torres.

The data on behaviors and attitudes were gathered through parent and student surveys. Researchers asked about students’ academic confidence, grit, self-control, illegal activities, how much time they spent on homework, how much effort they put into school, and other behaviors.

The researchers said one explanation could be reference bias—that KIPP students are comparing themselves to other KIPP students.

“The standard at KIPP for hard work is candidly a lot higher than at a typical school,” said Steve Mancini, KIPP’s director of public affairs. “It may be that the bar in the comparison group of schools is just not as high.”

Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to “Understanding the Effect of KIPP as It Scales: Volume I, Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 2015 edition of Education Week as Study: KIPP Confers an Edge in Academics But Not in Attitudes

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Close the Gender Gap: Getting Girls Excited about STEM
Join female STEM leaders as they discuss the importance of early cheerleaders, real life role models, and female networks of support.
Content provided by Logitech
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Q&A Letting Students Decide Where Money Should Go: How One District Did It
Cyndi Tercero-Sandoval leads an effort to let Phoenix Union High students decide how significant chunks of money are spent.
4 min read
Cyndi Tercero-Sandoval, the family and community engagement manager at the Phoenix Union High School District, in Phoenix, Ariz., meets with community liaisons at Carl Hayden High School.
Cyndi Tercero-Sandoval, the family and community engagement manager at the Phoenix Union High School District, in Phoenix, Ariz., meets with community liaisons at Carl Hayden High School.
Ash Ponders for Education Week
School & District Management Leader To Learn From Transforming a School District, One Relationship at a Time
Richard Tomko of Belleville, N.J., schools wants to build an early foundation for students and help those with disabilities flourish.
8 min read
Richard Tomko, Superintendent of Belleville Public Schools in Belleville, N.J., visits Mrs. Gras’ pre-K class and participates in a dancing activity to enrich gross motor skills on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. One of Dr. Tomko’s main initiatives as superintendent has been to grow Belleville Public School’s “Preschool Universe,” which has been largely successful since the opening of the Hornblower Early Childhood Center in 2020. District enrollment in the “Preschool Universe” was at 7.8% in the 2018-19 school year, and is now at 86.7% for the 2022-23 school year.
Richard Tomko, superintendent of Belleville public schools in Belleville, N.J., has deepened community trust while improving the district's financial footing and expanding academic programs.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
School & District Management Photo Essay PHOTOS: A Superintendent Who Exudes Joy in All Things
EdWeek photographer Sam Mallon reflects on her day with Richard Tomko, a 2023 Leaders to Learn From honoree.
2 min read
During a visit to the new Belleville Indoor Training Facility, Richard Tomko, Superintendent of Belleville Public Schools, speaks with Carolyn Guancione, Indoor Training Facility Support Staff, about how the space continues to transform, in Belleville, N.J., on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. The new training facility was built to facilitate and accommodate general physical activity and training for sports teams within the school system and the greater Belleville community.
Richard Tomko, the superintendent of Belleville public schools, speaks with Carolyn Gancione during a visit to the district's new indoor training facility, which is shared with the community.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
School & District Management Opinion Your School Leadership Needs More Student Voice
When one Virginia principal moved from middle school to high school, he knew he would need to find new ways of soliciting student feedback.
S. Kambar Khoshaba
3 min read
Illustration of students holding speech bubbles.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva