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Economists Give KIPP a Passing Grade

Nikhil Swaminathan | GOOD

March 01, 2010

KIPP, the innovative charter school program that’s garnered praise for its extended school hours and success in getting its students to nearly double their proficiency in math an reading during middle school, got a big boost from a group of economists affiliated with MIT the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The group set out to determine if the magic that KIPP seemingly works is due to a selection bias—namely that parents who send their kids to these schools are more invested in their child’s education, and that the students themselves are ready to take on the work necessary to achieve academic success. But, as evidenced by a middle school in the Boston suburb of Lynn—which has a mix of children who get in via lottery and those whose parents sign them up—those gains are legitimate and appear attributable to the school’s curriculum and environment.

The research team concluded that:

KIPP Lynn generates substantial score gains for lottery winners … . Score gains are largest for special education students and students with limited English proficiency, while Hispanic and non-Hispanic students appear to benefit about equally from time in KIPP. … A recent charter study concludes that newly opened charter schools do worse than traditional public schools … . It’s therefore worth emphasizing that the results reported here are from the first few cohorts to attend KIPP Lynn. Finally, we note that while our results are for a single school, the KIPP organization runs similar schools across the country. Key elements of the KIPP program also feature in other No Excuses charter schools, such as those in our Boston sample. Our findings suggest the major elements of this replicable model combine to increase achievement overall, with the largest gains coming from relatively weak students.

Via Yglesias.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Leila HADD Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

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