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Do KIPP charter schools support students in achieving college success?

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Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes

New Study Reveals Mixed Results for KIPP Charter Schools’ Impact on College Degree Completion

A recent study conducted by researchers examined the impact of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) middle schools on college degree completion rates. The study compared students who won a lottery to attend a KIPP middle school to those who lost the lottery. Surprisingly, the study found that both groups earned college degrees at similar rates of 22%.

However, the study took a closer look at a subset of students who not only attended a KIPP middle school but also enrolled in a KIPP high school. And the results were significantly different. This group of students had a much higher chance of entering and completing college. In fact, 39% of these students earned a four-year college degree compared to only 20% of a comparison group.

KIPP officials and news coverage of the study have emphasized the positive findings for students who attended both KIPP middle and high schools. These results suggest that the combination of a KIPP education from middle school through high school significantly increases students’ chances of college success.

However, the study’s overall findings offer a more complex verdict for KIPP charter schools. While the results for the combined middle and high school experience are promising, the less-encouraging results for middle school only apply to a broader group of students and are more methodologically robust.

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Some experts are calling for more research before drawing firm conclusions about the effectiveness of KIPP schools. The study examined over 2,000 students who applied to attend KIPP middle schools between 2008 and 2011. Previous research has shown that KIPP improves test scores, but this study revealed limited longer-term benefits from attending a KIPP middle school.

The gains seen among the subset of students who attended both KIPP middle and high schools may be attributed to the focus of KIPP high schools on getting students into college. However, this creates a puzzle as the group of students who saw significant gains in college completion were a subset of the larger group who did not experience any improvements.

It is clear that further research is needed to explain this disconnect between the study’s findings. Despite the mixed results, KIPP charter schools continue to be an important factor in education reform, with their focus on low-income students and college preparation.

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