Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Looking at KIPP, Coolly and Carefully

The Washington Post's Jay Mathews continues to consistent write the most insightful stuff on KIPP -- not surprising, given that he's writing a book on KIPP!
This article fairly covers KIPP's successes -- but also its handful of failures, which KIPP is very open about, concluding: "Nonetheless, more than 90 percent of schools started by KIPP since 1995 are still operating."
Mathews even found two critics, who embarass themselves with comments that I won't waste my time rebutting (I can only assume neither has set foot in a KIPP):
Gerald W. Bracey, an educational psychologist, author and columnist, said "I would give 'sloppy' journalists only half the blame for the KIPP-as-magic-bullet phenomenon. I'd put at least half on Heritage, Walton, Fisher and other conservative think tanks who have used KIPP to say that if it can happen there it can happen anywhere."

Caroline Grannan, a public school advocate and blogger who follows charter school issues, said "KIPP schools succeed for some students--but it's a select subset of students. KIPP is evidently not the solution to the challenges facing urban public education. It would be wonderful to see the vast private funding that's poured into the KIPP schools, which serve just that limited subset, benefiting a larger segment of high-need students."

Looking at KIPP, Coolly and Carefully

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 24, 2007; 1:22 PM

Some critics decry the way the Knowledge Is Power Program presents itself as the savior of inner city education. My answer: KIPP doesn't do that. We sloppy journalists do.

Let me present Exhibit A: The latest annual report card from the KIPP Foundation in San Francisco. It has 93 pages of remarkable data. (See, there I go again, making KIPP the miracle cure. Let me change that to "interesting" data.) The report card tells how well each of the KIPP schools is doing, but it does not claim to be saving our cities.

I understand why we education reporters try to make KIPP sound like more than it is. We are starved for good news about low-income schools. KIPP is an encouraging story, so we are tempted to gush rather than report. We don't ask all the questions we should. We don't quote critics as often as we ought to. We don't emphasize how new and incomplete the KIPP data is. But none of that is KIPP's fault. Data costs money, and KIPP tries to use most of its funds to educate kids.

One of the best things about KIPP, a network of 52 independent public schools in 16 states and the District, is that it tries very hard to make the statistics it has available to everyone. Focusing on results is one of the organization's basic principles. Anyone can order a free copy of the new report card by going to And on page 57 you will find numbers that help explain why KIPP is firing its middle school in Buffalo, N.Y., the sixth time a KIPP school has left the network.

 Subscribe in a reader