KIPP Third-Graders: Downs and Ups

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Well as soon as the report arrived the other day saying KIPP is doing a bang up job with middle schoolers, its critics have come out of the woodwork, striking increasingly louder notes of concern.

As Hair Balls noted earlier in the week KIPP does benefit from the fact that it does not accept students, and their parents, who don't agree to the rigors of Kippdom (longer time spent in school, guaranteed parental involvement) and boots students if they and/or their parents don't measure up.

And several critics have questioned the attrition statement -- disputing the contention that at KIPP it is neither better nor worse than surrounding schools. At some KIPP schools, they say attrition is a lot worse; it just averages out to be okay.

Another critic pointed out to Hair Balls that KIPP has avoided publicity on poor-performing third graders -- only middle schoolers were included in the study by independent research organization Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

KIPP Inc. appears on the state's Tier 3 list -- where students' TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) performance in math and English for three consecutive years has been at or below the state average in reading or math.

KIPP co-founder and Houston resident Mike Feinberg responded quickly to our questions about the third graders and admits it's been a mixed bag.

"There were two years we had very, very low third-grade TAKS scores and there are two years we've had extremely high third-grade TAKS scores," Feinberg wrote in an e-mail.

He termed the 2005 scores "depressing." He said they only had one school in Houston with third-graders. "That was the school we started in 10 days to help deal with the Katrina evacuees ... FWIW, while the scores were low, we were insanely proud of the kids for how much they grew."

KIPP kept the school open one more year to handle kids from families who hadn't moved back to New Orleans or who didn't want to go into KIPP's other schools. The Texas Education Agency gave KIPP a waiver in 2005 and 2006, Feinberg said.

The 2009 school year, Feinberg said, was the first year "our primary schools started growing to full size and had 3rd graders to test." He said KIPP SHINE "was our only school old enough to have third graders" and their results were that 100 percent of the third graders passed the reading TAKS with 60 percent reaching the commended mark, while 99 percent passed math, with 66 percent of those making it to commended.

In 2010, KIPP Sharp also had third-graders and at that school, Feinberg said, 100 percent of the third-graders passed both reading and math, with 67 percent commended in reading and 50 percent commended in math. As for SHINE that year, 100 percent passed TAKS in reading, 62 percent of them commended, while 95 percent passed math with 42 percent commended.

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