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.

Parents Win Another Victory for Control of Children’s School

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

The parents of Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, California have finally won the right to take control of the school, according to the Victorville Daily Press.  Desert Trails — one of the worst schools in California — has failed for years, which made it eligible under California’s “Parent Trigger Law” to be taken over by parents.  The law lets a majority of parents vote to replace a school’s principal and institute a new curriculum.  The parents’ struggle was the basis for the new movie Won’t Back Down starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis.

To learn more about the “Parent Trigger Law” and the struggle of Desert Trails Elementary’s parents and students, click here.

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


Major Elements of HB 1152, the Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2012

Thursday, April 26th, 2012


Major Elements of HB 1152, the Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2012


A charter school is a nonprofit educational organization that is a public school. As such, they:


    • cannot charge tuition.
    • administer the same state tests and are rated under the same system as regular public schools.
    • must accept all students who apply, unless there’s not enough room, in which case they draw names, giving all students an equal chance.
    • are subject to the same restrictions on teaching religious doctrine as regular public schools.
    • may not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, disability and other categories.
    • are subject to civil rights, health, and safety laws.
    • are subject to an independent audit of their finances, just as school districts are.



Press Release: Charter School Bill Fails in House Committee

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

For Immediate Release

April 3, 2012


Forest Thigpen (601) 969-1300



The House Education Committee voted today to kill a charter school bill that would have brought public school choice to thousands of children across the state. After passing the Senate in February, the House Education Committee today defeated Senate Bill 2401 by a vote of 15 to 16.


Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, expressed disappointment over the bill’s defeat:


“The education establishment has built a Berlin Wall around the current system to keep their own people from escaping to freedom and opportunity. This battle is far from over. We will continue to call on our legislators to tear down this wall.”


“Today, a handful of legislators voted to sentence countless parents and children to more futility and hopelessness. Even worse, this sentence was handed down by legislators whose districts would not even be affected by this bill. This issue really boils down to one fundamental question: ‘Do you believe parents know what’s best for their children, or do you believe government knows what’s best?'”


“I am encouraged that the governor has announced his willingness to call a special session to give the full legislature the opportunity to give parents more options for meeting their children’s needs.”


“I applaud the members who took a courageous stand and voted for the bill in the face of enormous pressure from the education establishment.” Members voting for the bill: Tracy Arnold (Booneville), Toby Barker (Hattiesburg), Randy Boyd (Mantachie), Gary Chism (Columbus), Carolyn Crawford (Pass Christian), Becky Currie (Brookhaven), Dennis Debar (Leakesville), Chuck Espy (Clarksdale), Herb Frierson (Poplarville), Jeffrey Guice (Ocean Springs), Rita Martinson (Madison), Brad Mayo (Oxford), Kevin McGee (Rankin County), John Moore (Rankin County), and Joe Warren (Mount Olive).


Legislators voting against allowing Mississippi children to attend a charter school include:
Alyce Clarke (Jackson), Nick Bain (Corinth), Clara Burnett (Tunica), Credell Calhoun (Jackson), Reecy Dickson (Macon), James Evans (Jackson), Joe Gardner (Batesville), Forrest Hamilton (DeSoto County), Gregory Holloway (Hazlehurst), Wanda Jennings (DeSoto County), Steve Massengill (Hickory Flat), Pat Nelson (DeSoto County), Rufus Straughter (Belzoni), Sara R. Thomas (Indianola), Tom Weathersby (Rankin County), Linda Whittington (Schlater).


– 30 –


Answers to Your Questions About Charter Schools

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Q. Why do parents and children in “Successful” districts need public charter schools?


Q. How will charters impact existing public school funding?


Q: Why can public charter schools hire teachers who might not have a state teaching certificate or license?


Q. Who should exercise oversight over public charter schools?


Q. How do we know public charter schools are effective?


Q. Why not wait?


Read the answers here


EVERYONE WINS: How Charter Schools Benefit All New York City Public School Students

Monday, March 19th, 2012

As charter schools continue to grow in size and number, so does their influence on traditional public school systems. Critics charge that charters rob traditional public schools of their most promising and motivated students and the resources they need to provide a quality education, since the size of school budgets corresponds to the number of students enrolled. Charter schools’ proponents, relying on market theory, argue that traditional public schools can be expected to respond to competition for students—who are proxies for customers—by improving the quality of education they offer.


Using student-level data, a report by Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, examines the impact of charter schools on the academic performance of students who remain in the local public schools of New York City, instead of joining its rapidly expanding charter sector. In particular, it tests whether there is a relationship between how much math and reading skill a regular public school student has acquired during a school year and the percentage of his or her classmates who left for a charter school at the end of the previous school year, controlling for both observed and unobserved factors pertaining to the student and his or her school.


The analysis reveals that students benefit academically when their public school is exposed to competition from a charter.


Findings include:


  • For every 1 percent of a public school’s students who leave for a charter, reading proficiency among those who remain increases by about 0.02 standard deviations, a small but not insignificant number, in view of the widely held suspicion that the impact on local public schools of students’ departures for charter schools would be negative.


  • Competition from charter schools has no effect on overall student achievement in math.


  • In both math and reading, the lowest-performing students in public school benefit from competition from charter schools.


Read the full study here

Charter Schools Action Alert: Contact Your Representative!

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

The Mississippi House of Representatives is expected to be voting ANY DAY on House Bill 888, the Public Charter School bill.


The opponents of charter schools are working diligently to stop the push for school choice. They are pressuring legislators to vote against this bill, or to amend it in ways that severely weaken it. Your Representatives need to hear from folks who support more public school options for Mississippi families!


Please contact your Representative today and urge him or her to VOTE YES on House Bill 888, the Public Charter Schools bill!


School Choice for All Children

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Cynthia Jackson is imprisoned by her zip code.


She lives in Canton, works as an anesthesia technician, and is a single mother to Will, a 5th grader in Canton public schools.


And there’s the problem. Will is earning good grades and wants to excel. But Cynthia knows that her son is not being challenged. She looks at the thriving schools in the Madison County School District, just a few miles away, and knows her son’s school is just not meeting his needs.


But what options does she have?