There's an interesting article in Newsweek, by John Alter, in which he says
"The irony is, we know what works to close the achievement gap. At the 60 KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools, more than 80 percent of 16,000 randomly selected low-income students go to college, four times the national average for poor kids."That's an impressive statistic until you look around. "80%" applies only to the original couple hundred students, not the current population of 16,000, and even then the sample is skewed.
Even KIPP agrees ... from their website, "This national college matriculation percentage only includes students who attended the original two KIPP schools in Houston and New York. At this time, those are the only KIPP schools that have been in operation long enough for alumni to progress from eighth grade to college freshmen."
I get annoyed when facts like these are thrown into the public view where "education experts" (i.e. big mouth, no current teaching experience) and administrators (i.e., big mouth, no teaching experience) take them and make really bad decisions.
That line "We know what works to close the achievement gap" is very powerful to these people. I have had a principal say, "Longer school days work for KIPP and we should have that here." His proof was an Internet article similar to this one; it was enough for him.
This is not a double-blind study with treatment & control groups. No one is controlling for confounding factors. There is no analysis of correlation / causation. The sample size is small and biased, applying to the "randomly selected" (from out of KIPP schools, not the city as a whole) from a selective group (those who made it through 4 years +) chosen from yet another sub-group (those admitted to KIPP schools).
So, specific issues ...
(1) The students are not chosen randomly from the city population: they are screened by an application process. Before the program even has a chance to work or not, this weeds out many who won't succeed -- in KIPP or in college.
(2) It ignores those who might have attended successfully but didn't for other reasons -- such as an unwillingness to spend 10 hours a day doing heavy-duty drill and practice for standardized tests. "KIPP schools relentlessly focus on high student performance on standardized tests and other objective measures. " Again, I don't have a problem with KIPP here, just Alter's assumption that this is the gloriously perfect solution.
(3) It ignores all those who do not stay in college after the freshman orientation.
(4) The students have completed 5th through 8th in a KIPP program AND four years of high school. From KIPP "As for how we track students, we do this through the KIPP to College alumni program at both schools. The KIPP to College program aims to empower each middle school graduate to continue using the scholarly habits, knowledge, and skills learned at KIPP schools as they continue on the path to college (and beyond.)"
How about that? Anyone who isn't part of the "KIPP to College alumni program", isn't included in the statistic!
- Can you imagine anyone going through eight years of this (see below for some more details of the program) while not having the proper attitude for college?
- Can you imagine continuing KIPP to College program in high school if you have no intention of going to college all along?
Remember how scientists get temperatures close to absolute zero? Conventional methods get you close but one of the final steps is this: you have a pool of atoms, some hot and some cold. Hot ones bounce higher and are shot off with a laser, leaving a cooler overall substance. After a while, it's not surprising that you can take averages of the remaining ones and claim a good success rate.
There are so many places and ways to leave that attrition is more common than graduation. There is no way to know whether KIPP is teaching particularly well, but it sure can winnow them out. The fact that a student has the parents, patience, willingness and dedication to tolerate the work and the schedule may be the reason that he or she goes to college. I would certainly think so. Whether the KIPP style of teaching is effective has not been introduced, studied or discussed.
Please don't assume that it will work for the rest of the educational system based on this data.
Some other information from the KIPP site ...
Time in school is 60% greater than that of a normal PHS and is a big factor: 7:25 a.m. til 5:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. on Friday.) Saturdays 9:15 a.m. til 1:05 p.m. Summer school.
The student contract ...
"I will always work, think, and behave in the best way I know how, and I will do whatever it takes for me and my fellow students to learn. This also means that I will complete all my homework every night, I will call my teachers if I have a problem with the homework or a problem with coming to school, and I will raise my hand and ask questions in class if I do not understand something.
"I will always make myself available to parents and teachers, and address any concerns they might have. If I make a mistake, this means I will tell the truth to my teachers and accept responsibility for my actions.
"I will always behave so as to protect the safety, interests, and rights of all individuals in the classroom. This also means that I will always listen to all my KIPP teammates and give everyone my respect.
"I will follow the KIPP dress code.
"I am responsible for my own behavior, and I will follow the teachers' directions.