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Special sauce detected?

March 14, 2013

Charter schools often seem to claim to have some special sauce – some methodology that enables them to perform better than traditional public schools (and tastes great too!)

But upon scrutiny, it usually turns out that the special sauce is either 1) favorable demographics, 2) some other kind of selection bias, or 3) the charter school isn’t actually performing that well, or the district schools are doing better than portrayed.

But now a large and credible study has come out, suggesting that KIPP charter schools at least are obtaining measurably higher performance. Now, for the vetting.

It’s kind of like sifting through data to find the Higgs boson. Or when one of the Mars rovers detects an unusual bubble in its test tubes that *might* be evidence of life, and everyone holds their breath to see if life is confirmed. Has special sauce been detected? Or will it be attributed to one of the usual explanations?

I’ll let Jay Mathews explain: Biggest study ever says KIPP gains substantial:

Mathematica Policy Research has released its five-year investigation of 43 KIPP schools — the largest study ever of any charter school network. It concludes: “the average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial.” […]

The central point is: KIPP teachers excel in reading, math, science and social studies, as proven by comparing their students to similarly disadvantaged children who do not attend KIPP.

“KIPP impact estimates are consistently positive across the four academic subjects examined in each of the first four years after enrollment in a KIPP school, and for all measurable student subgroups,” the report says. “A large majority of the individual KIPP schools in the study show positive impacts on student achievement as measured by scores on state-mandated assessments.”

  1. John Young
    March 15, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Jay “Charter Fanboy” Mathews reports on the BIGGEST study ever. Of course biggest means best.

    often not.

  2. John Young
    March 18, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    to answer your question in the title: no.

  3. Karen in New Jersey
    April 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I live in western New Jersey. I guess its a “high income suburb.” Everything I read about charter schools is about urban areas but I see them as an option that would be very popular here and would greatly improve outcomes for a lot of children. Parents are highly motivated here and there are a lot of resources in the homes.

    A smaller school that allowed parents to be involved would get rid of the bullying that goes on even in an area like mine. In the public schools, teachers and administrators are very crafty at shrugging it off.

    We don’t even need school lunches here; I can see parents attracted to a charter school on that basis alone. I didn’t like that they had french fries and other high calorie junk available for my daughter to buy for lunch. It would make the pressure on parents to assist conformity a lot easier if the conformity didn’t include things that are harmful to the child. The sports, cheerleading, honor society, student council, etc. — these are actually big negatives for the great majority of the children. Sometimes you feel like there is no common sense in the schools. The message should be that every student is valuable but thats not what goes on in public schools.

    Will charter schools have to show dramatic results in the urban areas in order to move out into the suburbs? I don’t think that will happen; the problems in the urban areas go so far beyond the schools. Or, will they come into these areas with a sales pitch to serve the children better than the public schools? One thing for sure: they could pitch improving SAT scores by simply targeting the material on the SAT tests. I am sure that private schools do that but the public schools act like its not their concern to prepare the kids for the SAT tests.

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