Friday, October 19, 2007

What lessons does KIPP offer for urban education reform?

If KIPP schools themselves aren't part of the answer for most urban kids, does KIPP offer any lessons for urban school reform?

I think it does. Increasing the amount of time that kids spend in school is a promising strategy for improving kids' academic achievement. The literature on summer learning gaps provides insight into why this could work.

Here's how researchers have gone about studying summer learning gaps. Imagine we give a kindergarten student a test at the beginning and end of kindergarten, and then again at the beginning and end of first grade. We can now calculate a rate of learning during the school year, as well as a rate of learning during the summer. Since the early 1970s, we've known that poor kids learn at a much lower rate during the summer than their advantaged peers.

This adds up over time. Karl Alexander found that two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between poor and rich 9th graders in Baltimore is explained by how much they learned during their elementary school summers. (Links for more info: Karl Alexander's recent work - written up here in Ed Week - or Doug Downey and colleagues paper using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. )

During the school year, every night from 3PM-11PM is a mini-summer. Advantaged kids participate in tutoring, art, music, and sports when school lets out, but disadvantaged kids don't have access to activities that keep them learning through the evening. While it is an expensive intervention, keeping poor kids in school longer - both during the school year and during the summer - is a policy option that deserves more attention.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!


Robert Pondiscio said...

I've always been mystified by the "more is better" argument. It obtains, but only so far. More of a bad thing is not better than nothing, it's worse. It's tantamount to the old workplace bromide about "beatings will continue until morale improves." I'm mystified that anyone can look at the typical failing school and say, "The kids need more of this." More KIPP? Sure, that makes sense. But afterschool programs in failing schools are typically filled with the same old: same old teachers, same old test prep masquerading as education, same old runninng around the gym barely supervised and calling it recreation. Give kids something they're not getting the rest of the day--the "mini-summer" you alluded to: tutoring, art, music, and sports. Now you've got something worth extending the day for.

Elie said...

I'm trying to process your posts about KIPP, and I'm left with this: there's some evidence that KIPP improves test scores but that's balanced by seleciton bias and somewhat questionable data (due to attrition). There's good evidence that more school = better outcomes (by reducing "summer slide"), and KIPP has moderately more school. Now, even if you assume that KIPP is increasing test scores, what's the evidence that improving test scores leads to better life outcomes: high school graduation, higher earnings, etc.? Given all those questions, I'm still skeptical that KIPP is having a substantial impact on its students.

DIO said...

You have made a very strong case for the lesson offered to urban educational reform by KIPP’s experience. Your statistics offered by research studies help to illustrate that early interaction in education has been the reason for the two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between the “poor kids” and their advantaged peers. However, you have not conclusively demonstrated in this article that KIPP schools have come up with a progress report card for a considerable number of years to longitudinally prove their case. In other words although, researchers have illustrated that disadvantaged kids learn at a much lower rate during summer than their advantaged peers by using the rate of learning curves, no such statistics is available in this article on KIPP schools. For purposes of clarity and balanced view when writing a post, a writer must demonstrate that he/she has exhausted all the available facts before drawing a conclusion or making an opinion. This is a necessary and essential quality of a professional journalist, writer, commentator, or a moderator. Otherwise, the report would look lopsided or biased. If such statistics are not available, the writer should acknowledge that. As in the case of KIPP schools, statistics are available and here is the link you could follow to get more tangible evidence.

KIPP Austin said...

Hi, my name is Jill Kolasinski and I’m the CEO of KIPP Austin. I’ve been reading with interest the debate around whether the KIPP approach is the key to urban education reform, and wanted to offer my thoughts.

KIPP’s method includes more time in school, or more time on task as we call it. As one blogger points out, this time must be high value--not extra time for the sake of clocking hours. Our teachers, parents and students must all commit to more hours in the classroom. In fact, there four other pillars that are equally important to the length of our school day and school year. They are: high expectations, choice and commitment, power to lead, and focus on results. Students and parents choose KIPP for one basic reason: because it prepares them for college. Time and time again, our research as well as studies conducted by independent agencies show that our approach works.

We would not suggest the KIPP way of educating is the only answer for all students. What we would point out is the positive impact that KIPP schools are having on their communities. I’ll use my own city, Austin, TX as an example. At KIPP Austin, we currently enroll 360 students in grades 5-8, 90 percent of whom come from low- income families. Next fall, we’ll open a high school which will graduate its first class of approximately 100 seniors in 2012. Effectively, that graduating class will represent the total number of minority students who graduated in 2005 from the three school districts which comprise the area we serve.

Thanks for your thoughts on KIPP and charter schools in general.