KIPP Study Finds High Student Attrition Amid Big Learning Gains
By Erik W. Robelen
The final report from a three-year study of a batch of KIPP charter schools in the San Francisco Bay Area probes key issues that have sparked debate about the national network of independently run public schools, including student achievement and attrition. The study concludes that the middle schools run by KIPP, which stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program, have posted “strong achievement gains,” especially in the 5th and 6th grades, and points to signs that the schools are not simply drawing better students.
Jeffrey R. Henig, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, who is working on a review of KIPP studies, said the level of student attrition reported in the SRI study was surprising, and an important caveat to discussions of achievement at KIPP schools. “I think people’s jaws will drop a little bit at that, But, this is not to say KIPP isn’t helping students” he said.
Mr. Henig said his reading of the existing research on kipp suggests that the schools’ effects on students are positive, though not as dramatic as some have claimed, when factors such as attrition are taken into account. He was also struck by data on teacher turnover. Annual turnover rates for the Bay Area kipp schools ranged from 18 percent to 49 percent from 2003-04 to 2007-08.