Response to Wall Street Journal Op-ed "Charter School Success Is an Illusion"

In the 8/26/2019 Wall Street Journal opinion piece “Charter School Success Is an Illusion,” Glenn Sacks claims that charters like KIPP outperform traditional public schools because the academic abilities of students who select charters are higher than in other schools.  Research shows his claims are absolutely false.  According to a report by independent research firm Mathematica, the students who come to KIPP for the first time in fifth grade have lower average test scores than their peers in nearby district schools.

The author also claims that charters’ high results can be attributed to lower-performing students leaving charter schools or being pushed out.  There is no evidence to support the claim that KIPP systemically “skims” or pushes out lower-performing students.  In fact, in their studies of KIPP, Mathematica took attrition into account by holding KIPP accountable for student performance for every student who enrolled, even those who left KIPP after as little as one year. They still found significant and substantial positive impact on student achievement at KIPP.

And KIPP schools don’t have higher-than-average student attrition rates compared to other public schools in our communities.  At KIPP we work hard to be transparent about our attrition rates.  As the author points out, our website shares the incredible outcomes of our students because we are proud of all they have accomplished.  We also share attrition rates for each of our schools because we believe that healthy schools have low attrition, and we work hard to increase the proportion of students who stay with us from year to year.

Sacks closes his argument by saying we need to “support the schools we already have” yet he excludes charters from that group.  KIPP celebrated its 25th Anniversary this year. We are not an educational fad; we educate more than 100,000 predominately low-income students around the country.  Don’t those children and their families, and the thousands more on charter waiting lists, deserve our support too?

Instead of pointing fingers or making excuses, why don’t we spend more time learning from each other and sharing best practices?  Why not advocate together to expand the pie for all public schools – district and charter – instead of tearing each other down and treating this like a zero sum game? KIPP has spoken out in favor of more funding for traditional public-school children.  I would hope Glenn Sacks would do the same.


Richard Buery Jr.

Chief of Policy & Public Affairs

KIPP Foundation