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Mathematica Study: KIPP Charter Middle Schools Show “Impressive” Results

It’s almost too obvious to say, but worth repeating to those who don’t want to listen: Not all public charter schools are good. But nearly all are offering families a viable education alternative, and many are outperforming their traditional counterparts — some by a significant amount. Like KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program).

A new study conducted for KIPP by Mathematica shows exactly that. KIPP charter schools are making a positive impact on the primarily poor and minority student populations they serve. The examination of academic progress at 22 KIPP middle schools yielded some glowing results, including:

  • Nearly all 22 schools have significant positive effects on student math performance over three years, mostly in the second and third year
  • Most schools have significant positive effects on student reading performance over the second and third years, not as many in the first year
  • “Estimated impacts are frequently large enough to substantially reduce race- and income-based achievement gaps within three years of entering KIPP.”
  • Most KIPP schools have more students held back a grade (largely because they don’t practice social promotion) but have no higher levels of student attrition than their public school counterparts

Perhaps most interesting of all is the way this study destroys the myth that KIPP owes its success to attracting students who are more gifted than their peers. As the report highlights:

The prior achievement of students entering KIPP schools varies, but KIPP schools most often enroll students whose average fourth-grade achievement is lower than the districtwide average.

In other words, KIPP middle schools reach students who tend to be behind their peers academically but go significantly farther in helping them make progress and close the achievement gap — especially in math. But let one of the study’s authors speak for himself, as he did in this Education Week article:

“The consistency of the effects across most of the 22 schools and the magnitude of the effects are pretty striking and impressive,” said Brian P. Gill, a senior social scientist for Mathematica and an author of the study. “We do a lot of education studies, and often the effects are nonexistent or quite small.”

Colorado has two KIPP schools, both located in Denver. One is the KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy middle school; the other is the adjacent new KIPP Collegiate High School. They represent a couple among many of Colorado’s higher-performing education options for parents who are looking to exercise some school choice.