Charter schools are public schools that are created to meet students’ educational needs in unique ways. Charter public schools are given freedom from some rules and regulations that traditional public schools have to follow. In return for that freedom, they are held to a higher level of accountability.In states where charter schools exist, parents have the power to choose whether to send their children to one. Mississippi parents don’t have that option, because our laws don’t allow it. To learn more about charter schools and how you can help us bring them to Mississippi, click here.

Study: KIPP Charter Schools Boost Academic Performance

Friday, March 1st, 2013

A new Mathematica study on charter school learning gains found that KIPP middle school students “gained an additional 11 months of learning in math, eight additional months in reading, 14 additional months of learning in science, and 11 additional months of learning in social studies when compared to students in comparable traditional public schools.” It is one of the most scientifically accurate studies conducted on charter school performance. The study provides evidence against several claims by charter school critics:

No “Cherry Picking” in KIPP Schools

The study found that KIPP schools “have a higher proportion of low-income and black students” and their students “enter the program with a lower baseline math and reading achievement” than students who attend traditional public schools. If charter schools were “cherry picking,” we would expect exactly the opposite: there should be fewer low-income students and they should have above average test scores. But KIPP charter schools educate students who are more disadvantaged and have lower test scores. There is no evidence to support the claim of “cherry picking” at KIPP charter schools.

KIPP students are not forced out

Opponents claim that some students are forced out of charter schools, keeping the best students for themselves and sending difficult students back to public school. The Mathematica study found no evidence to support this. The attrition rate at KIPP schools is nearly identical to traditional public schools. “It’s a credible way to deal with the criticism that [KIPP] is selectively counseling out kids who aren’t doing well,” said Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

What is the secret to KIPP’s success?

KIPP students learn more by spending more time in school. “KIPP students spend an average of nine hours per day, for 192 days each year, in school, compared to 6.6 hours per day, for 180 days, for traditional public schools” which results in 540 extra hours of instruction each year, or nearly 82 extra days of instruction at a traditional public school. The extra help is reinforced with added practice at home, because “KIPP students spend an extra 35-53 minutes on homework each night than students not enrolled in KIPP.”

KIPP’s “comprehensive behavioral system” was also praised by the study. “In schools where school-wide behavior standards and discipline policies are consistently communicated and enforced, the school rewards students for positive behavior, and the school punishes students who violate the rules, reading and math scores went up, researchers found.”

Scientifically Accurate

The study used two methods to compare performance: charter school students were compared to traditional public school students with similar backgrounds (race, income, location, etc.) and also compared to students in the same district who chose to attend a traditional public school instead of a charter school. The first method has been frequently used by researchers who oppose charter schools, while the second method is considered more scientifically rigorous. But no matter which method was used, both comparisons showed that KIPP charter school students were outperforming students in traditional public schools.

Charter Schools Work For Tennessee, Arkansas

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Gestalt Community Schools started in 2008 with a small private grant and space in a Memphis church; in four years they have grown to 435 students with plans to expand up to 5,300 students.  The Commercial-Appeal notes that Gestalt’s Power Center Academy was “the strongest performing middle school in the state” by former U.S. senator Bill Frist’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education.  Memphis isn’t the only place where charter schools are improving students’ lives: the KIPP charter school in Helena, Arkansas was recently named the second-best school in the state by U.S. News and World Report.  Arkansas has ten schools on the list of gold and silver schools, while Mississippi only had one.

Isn’t it time that Mississippi’s children had access to the same high-quality public charter schools as children in Arkansas and Tennessee?

Charter Schools and Great News

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

I have some great news, and some bad news.


First, the bad news. Charter school legislation is dead for this legislative session. Thousands of children will go another year without being able to escape the schools that are failing to meet their needs.


But I quickly want to let you know the great news. The legislature did pass one of our top priorities, a bill we drafted that will affect every school and every school district this year. I think it is one of the most significant changes in education policy in years.


This Fall, parents and communities will finally be able to have a clear understanding of how their school and district have been rated by the state Department of Education. No longer will there be the confusion of meaningless labels that hinder meaningful debate about the quality of schools.


From now on, schools and districts will be given letter grades, A through F.


Now, that might not seem like a big deal, but one of the major reasons the charter school bills died this year was because legislators were defending districts that are labeled “Successful.” Beginning this Fall, those districts will be labeled more accurately – as a “C” district. Yes, “Successful” simply means “average” – at best.


No one had paid much attention to the fallacy of our school rating system until we published our research showing how meaningless the “Successful” label is. We found that two districts rated “Successful” have zero schools rated that highly. And twelve districts rated “Successful” have at least half their schools rated below “Successful.”


We also found that 44 percent of “Successful” schools scored in the bottom half of achievement scores in the state.


These facts became a frequent component in legislative debates on a wide variety of education issues. We truly were able to change the course of debate by revealing the truth about school ratings.


Next year, legislators – and school superintendents – will be trying to explain why children in “C” schools and districts should be deprived of the opportunity to choose a school that better meets their needs, whether that is a charter school or some other option. And more importantly, the public will rise up and demand that their local schools make the changes needed to become an “A” school. That’s what has happened in other states that have adopted the A-through-F grading scale.


Having said all that, there is reason to believe the grading system itself creates artificially high ratings, regardless of the labels. We’ll be looking into that this summer, and we’ll be taking other actions to shine light on the reality of our public school system’s quality.


Our goal is to change the focus of our education system to its primary purpose: educating children. Not maintaining a system or employing adults, but educating children. We believe choice and competition create the best incentives to accomplish that goal.


The education establishment has built a Berlin Wall around the current system, keeping their own people from escaping to better opportunities. We will continue to encourage our legislature to tear down that wall. It didn’t happen in this session, but I am more confident than ever that choice and competition will come to Mississippi.


Be encouraged!


Forest Thigpen


  Is it a public school? Yes Yes No
  Do they charge tuition? No No Yes
  Can parents choose the school? No Yes Yes
  If the school fails, does it close? No Yes Sometimes
  Freedom to fire bad teachers? Limited Yes Yes
  Do students take state tests? Yes Yes In Some Schools

KIPP Delta College Preparatory School

KIPP Delta College Preparatory School (DCPS), located in Helena, Arkansas, was established in 2002 as an academically intensive college preparatory school in an effort to meet the educational needs and desires of the Delta community. KIPP was founded upon the premise that it could change the outcome of a child’s life through education. The belief was that high expectations could overcome the obstacles created by race, economics, and environment. KIPP Delta serves elementary, middle, and high school students.


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