KIPP Isn't Cheating; Review Says It Really Is Super Duper

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According to an independent research firm, KIPP charter schools -- there are several locations in Houston -- are not guilty of skimming the best and brightest from the public school system, thereby boosting their reported student scores.

Nope, according to the Mathematica Policy Research Inc. the students in the 22 Knowledge Is Power Program middle schools studied "typically had prior achievement levels that were lower than average achievement in their local school districts."

And once they hit KIPP, "impacts on students' state assessment scores in mathematics and reading are positive, statistically significant and educationally substantial," the authors of the executive summary wrote.

And students in KIPP middle schools are more likely to have do-overs, especially in fifth and sixth grades as compared to public schools. The summary's authors point out KIPP's philosophy that "students should be promoted to the next grade level only after they have demonstrated mastery of their current grade's material."

There is still a "better behavior" weeding-out process to the KIPP schools. Students must commit to longer school days, weeks and years. Parents must commit to supportive activities and a kid can be bounced if those contracts with KIPP aren't honored.

Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier has been highly complimentary of KIPP's achievements and is planning to emulate some of its methods in the upcoming Apollo 20 program designed to put extra effort into 20 of HISD's most troubled schools.

Other findings:

-- The student bodies at KIPP middle schools have higher concentrations of poverty and racial minorities, but lower concentrations of special education and limited English proficiency (LEP) students, than the public schools from which they draw.

-- KIPP schools most often enroll students whose average fourth-grade achievement is lower than the districtwide average.

-- KIPP schools don't have significantly higher or lower levels of attrition as compared with other schools within their district.

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