Study: Nation's largest charter school network has huge educational impact

ByJason Russell

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Students in the country’s largest network of charter schools are learning significantly more than they otherwise would, according to a new report.


For eight years, Mathematica Policy Research has been studying schools in the charter school network Knowledge is Power Program. Within three years of students entering the KIPP system, its elementary and middle schools have a positive impact.


At the elementary level, students are improving by six to 10 percentiles in three out of four math and reading categories.


In middle school and high school, students gain in both math and language arts. On average, students rise seven percentiles in reading and 10 percentiles in social studies and science.


KIPP schools also have a positive effect on students who enter the KIPP network beginning in high school. But KIPP’s high schools don’t have any additional impact on students continuing onward from KIPP middle schools. Still, “KIPP high schools increase students’ coursetaking, likelihood of applying to college and several other college preparation activities,” the study said.


Parents are generally more satisfied with their KIPP schools, according to the study. But it found no impact on student motivation, engagement or behavior.

The study also suggested that KIPP middle schools may have a greater impact in the earlier years of operation.


“We are proud to know that, when scientifically measured, we are having a significant impact on the majority of our students, even as we have grown to a network of 183 schools that is now serving close to 70,000 children,” KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth said in an open letter. “At the same time, we are far from satisfied and recognize that we have work to do in realizing the full potential of all our KIPPsters.”


Mathematica is a policy research company that serves government agencies, foundations, universities and private-sector companies.


Charter schools are government-funded, but independently operated. They do not charge tuition and they are open to all students, but they often don’t have enough space to meet demand. They use a lottery system to determine admission when there aren’t enough seats. Compared to traditional public schools, charter schools have more independence in their operations and curriculum, which is why so many families find charter schools desirable.