Updated with response from KIPP: at 7:37 p.m.
There are a few dissenters who have remained leery of the great success story of the KIPP schools, questioning the turnover of students in the acclaimed program. KIPP operates three schools in the metro area and a high school, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, opens this summer.
Now skeptics are about to get some data on attrition and funding that may confirm their suspicions.
In a study bound to raise the hackles of KIPP supporters, researchers at the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University and Teachers College at Columbia University found that KIPP has a high attrition rate among African-American boys.
While the study does not challenge the academic success of KIPP graduates, it raises questions about the funding and whether the high level of private dollars is sustainable. The study found that KIPP schools benefit tremendously by donations and private funding, earning an extra $6,500 on average per pupil.
KIPP sent me a comment and fact sheet rebuttal of the study: Go to the link to see the fact sheet. Here is statement:
At KIPP, we welcome any rigorous and objective review of our schools. We have participated on several occasions with outside, independent reviews, such as the 2010 study by Mathematica Policy Research.
This morning we received a copy of the report “What Makes KIPP Work? A Study of Student Characteristics, Attrition and School Finance,” by Gary Miron, Jessica L. Urschel, and Nicholas Saxton at Western Michigan University (WMU). In our quick read of the WMU report we observe significant shortcomings in the methodologies used, and must therefore reject the core conclusions made by Miron, et al. about KIPP.
While this report focuses on some very fundamental issues for KIPP—student enrollment, attrition, and finances—the implications of its findings do not hold up. We have identified, based on our quick review of the report, multiple factual misrepresentations and errors of analysis.
For example, the WMU report claims that KIPP received $5,760 per student in private funding for the 2008 fiscal year. However, this result is based on an analysis of only half of our schools, and includes at least two instances where private revenue for regions was misclassified. When we look at correctly classified data for these two KIPP regions, and include all KIPP schools that were in operation that year, the number drops to around $2,500 per student—more than 55 percent lower than the WMU estimate.
Here is the official release on the report:
KIPP, The Knowledge is Power Program, has been widely praised by both the Bush and Obama administrations as a successful charter school model. The program, which operates 99 schools in 20 states and serves 27,000 students, is renowned for its “no excuses method,” by which generally high-poverty students attend school for a longer day and year than local public school students in more traditional school settings. According to the KIPP Web site, “more than 90 percent of KIPP middle school students have gone on to college-preparatory high schools, and over 85 percent of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.”
However, while most of the publicity about KIPP has focused on the number of students going on to college, little attention has looked at the kinds of students entering KIPP schools and the number of dollars KIPP receives from school districts, states and the federal government, as well as private sources.
“Outcomes are only half the story,” said Jeffrey R. Heng, Chair of the Dept. of Education Policy & Social Analysis at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Inputs are the other half and this study’s attention to factors like student characteristics, student attrition, and school finance sheds new light on these.”
Among the key findings in the report “What Makes KIPP Work? A Study of Student Characteristics, Attrition, and School Finance:”
– KIPP draws students who are low-income – but are more ready to learn than the typical public school student in the surrounding school district.
While KIPP schools have enrolled high numbers of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch (77 percent as compared to 71 percent at comparable public schools), they have enrolled far fewer students than traditional public schools who are classified as English Language Learners (11.5 percent as compared to 19.2 percent) and a lower rate of disabled children (5.9 percent as compared to 12.1 percent at traditional public schools).
–Nationally, KIPPs schools have substantially higher levels of attrition than traditional public schools. Analysis by the report’s researchers revealed that, on average, approximately 15 percent of students disappear from the KIPP grade cohorts each year. This finding is in line with other research, including KIPP’s own estimate of attrition. Between grades 6 and 8, the size of the KIPP grade cohorts drops by 30 percent.
The actual attrition rate may be higher if any of the KIPP schools do any backfilling of vacated places after grade 6. However, it appears that most KIPP schools do little to fill empty seats as students leave. When these figures are further broken out by race and gender, a full 40 percent of the African-American male students leave KIPP schools between grades 6 and 8. Overall a higher proportion of African-American students than other ethnic groups leave the KIPP schools. Girls are much more likely to remain in the KIPP schools across all ethnic groups.
–The level of funding KIPP receives from government and private sources is substantially more than the funding available to traditional public schools or competing charters. Using the federal dataset on school finance (2007-08), researchers were able to obtain detailed revenue from 25 KIPP schools and their local districts. During the 2007-08 school year, KIPP received more per pupil in combined public revenue ($12,731 per student) than any other comparison group: the national average for all schools ($11,937), the national charter school average ($9,579), or the average for KIPP’s local school districts ($11,960).
KIPP received more in per pupil revenue from federal sources ($1,779) than did any other comparison group: the national average ($922), the national charter district average ($949), or KIPP schools’ host districts ($1,332).
“I am surprised that KIPP gets more money from the federal government especially because KIPP has limited special education services which are subsidized with federal dollars,” said Dr. Gary Miron, the report’s lead researcher and Professor of Evaluation, Measurement & Research at the Dept. of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology at Western Michigan University. “Charter schools traditionally receive less money because they provide fewer services like special education and vocational training. That is why it’s surprising that KIPP receives more money than all of our comparison groups from public sources.”
None of the 12 KIPP districts reported any private revenues in the national school district finance dataset; however, a separate analysis of these districts’ 990 tax forms for 2008 revealed large sums of private contributions. Per-pupil contributions for the 11 KIPP districts that the researchers included in this analysis equaled an average of $5,760, much more than the $1,000 to $1,500 additional per-pupil revenue KIPP estimates is necessary for their program. Two KIPP districts or groups received more than $10,000 per pupil in private revenues.
–The $6,500 advantage: Combining public and private sources of revenue, KIPP received, on average, $18,491 per pupil in 2007-08. This is $6,500 more per-pupil than what KIPP’s local school districts received in revenues. Some KIPP students have as much as a $10,000 advantage over their peers in traditional public schools.
This study does not question the body of evidence on student achievement gains made in KIPP schools. In fact, it is the view of the report’s authors that KIPP’s claims of improving test results of the students who persist in its schools faster than traditional public schools are supported by rigorous and well-documented studies.
“KIPP has been lauded as a successful private operator of public schools,” said Miron, “but this report shows that KIPP is not able to serve the broad spectrum of public school students with the money that is currently available for public schools.”
Added Miron, “If KIPP wishes to maintain its status as an exemplar of private management of schools, rather than a new effort to public schools, it will need to convince policymakers and the public that it intends to recruit and serve a wider range of students and that it will be able to do so with sustainable levels of funding comparable to what traditional public schools receive.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog