Sunday, February 8, 2009

More Uncritical Adulation of KIPP in the New York Times

In mainstream media, the KIPP PR Machine rolls on without critical scrutiny.

In yesterday's New York Times, Richard E. Nisbett, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has an Op-Ed piece where he states:

... a program called KIPP (for Knowledge Is Power Program) is having remarkable success with poor minority children in middle schools. KIPP students attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., their term is three weeks longer than normal, and every other Saturday they have classes for half a day. The curriculum includes sports,visits to museums and instruction in dance, art, music, theater and photography.During one academic year, the percentage of fifth-graders at KIPP schools in the San Francisco Bay Area who scored at or above the national average on the reading portion of the Stanford Achievement Test rose to 44 percent from 25 percent. And while only 37 percent started the year at or above the national average in math, 65 percent reached that level by spring.

Has Nisbett simply not done his homework or does he deliberately omit the fact that these San Francisco KIPP schools have amazingly high attrition rates? Parent activist Caroline Grannan has done a little more digging, on her own. Caroline was an editor at the San Jose Mercury News for 12 years. She contributes to a number of Internet sites dealing with education and schools. She is a San Francisco public school parent, advocate, and volunteer and has followed education politics locally and nationwide.

A study by SRI International confirmed what Caroline found through her own independent investigations. As Caroline notes,

the study confirms what those who look beyond the test scores have found: Those KIPP (two in San Francisco, one in Oakland, one in San Jose, one in San Leandro) schools suffer from very high student attrition.

Sixty percent of the students who enter the Bay Area KIPP schools in fifth grade leave before the end of eighth grade (page ix of the study, repeated in several places throughout). And the study also confirms what some might suspect — it's consistently the lower performers who leave."

"On average, those who leave KIPP before completing eighth grade have lower test scores on entering KIPP and demonstrate smaller fifth-grade effects than those who stay," the study reports on Page ix.

Read much more from Caroline here.

And please read Research Analyst Michael Martin's powerful observations in response to the report "What Do We Know About the Outcomes of KIPP Schools?"

Martin notes:

It is fundamentally fraudulent to take any group of students to form a base level of test scores, remove the unsuccessful students, and then claim success on the basis of improved test scores, particularly when you can’t show the improved test scores.

and further:
comparisons of these schools with local public schools are comparing the few
successes of the remaining students in these schools with the entire student
membership of public schools.

In addition, although it seems clear that there is no formal selective admissions process in KIPP schools, it does not take the brightest crayon in the box to see that selection bias does indeed occur. KIPP schools demand that students and parents sign a commitment form that includes severe obligations for behavior and attendance. Nothing wrong with that some may argue. However, the point is that invalid comparisons are being made between KIPP schools and regular public schools. According to Martin, the selection bias is "blatant and crucial."

Again, you can read more of his analysis

1 comment:

caroline said...

Thanks for this post! Of course, you could post a response like this pretty much daily to yet another piece of uncritical adulation of KIPP in the press.