Who Benefits from KIPP?

National Bureau of Economic Research
J. Angrist, S. Dynarski, T. Kane, P. Pathak, & C. Walters
February 2010

This working paper presents findings from a study comparing academic gains between students who won and lost the lottery to attend KIPP Academy Lynn (a KIPP charter school in Lynn, Massachusetts). KIPP Lynn students have significant gains (if you like statistics, one year at KIPP Lynn translates into .35 and .12 standard deviations in math and reading). One year at KIPP Lynn reduced by 10 and eight percentage points (in math and reading, respectively) the probability that students would perform at a “warning level.” There was an equal increase in the probability that students would move up a performance level.

Given what we know about the culture of KIPP schools, i.e. extended school days and years, rigorous behavioral management, such results aren’t totally surprising. But here’s the catch: KIPP Academy Lynn has a high concentration of limited English proficient (LEP) and special education students, subgroups for whom charter schools are frequently criticized for under serving. Further, when the researchers break the data down by subgroups, special education and LEP students at KIPP Lynn achieved greater gains than other students at the school. Contrary to criticisms aimed at charters, it appears that KIPP Lynn serves the “weakest” students the best.

The study only examines one school, but the researchers point out that all KIPP schools employ a similar model; thus, the findings might be generalized across KIPP charters in other states.

In Ohio, charter school quality varies dramatically. For this reason, the Fordham Institute has advocated for heightened charter accountability (in part, through stricter sponsorship contracts) and for lifting charter caps specifically for high-performing charter networks with a track record of success (e.g., KIPP, Building Excellent Schools). Unfortunately, as reported earlier this year, Ohio hasn’t been very hospitable to all-star charter models. This study is another reminder that supporting proven, high-quality charter networks in Ohio is worth the effort. Read it here.

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