"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fact Checking the Bill Gates Blog on KIPP

Whoa, Mr. Gates blogs! And his Jan. 21 entry does a creditable job of squeezing some more propaganda mileage from the Jay Mathews KIPP celebration that I reviewed last March. The first misleading thing about the post is the photo (above), which shows a Seth-and-Caitlin-looking pair of white children, when, in fact, almost all the children in the KIPP total compliance camps are brown and black. Score one for misleading.

Point 2: Mr. Gates thinks middle school includes grades 5-9: "Great teaching in 5th-9th grade is very hard because it’s challenging to get all of the kids engaged and because dealing with kids who cause trouble or are bored requires special skills." But, yes, Mr. Gates, total containment and force-fed doses of positive psychology requires special skills, indeed. Score one for ignorance.

Finally, on the subject of who goes to college and who doesn't, Mr. Gates's information appears to be based on the same Jonathan Alter lies published in Newsweek in 2008, which were subsequently debunked by reporter, Caroline Grannan. From Mr. Gates:
One example of KIPP’s success: while only 20 percent of low-income students in the U.S. attend college, the rate for former KIPP students is 80 percent.
On the other hand, here are the facts from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2008:
In terms of family income, 91% of high school students from families in the highest income group (above $100,000) enroll in college. The enrollment rate for student from middle-income families (from $50,001 to $100,000) is 78% and for those in the lowest income group ($20,000 and below) the rate is 52% (p. 7)."
Mr. Gates is also incorrect about the number "80 percent" of KIPPsters going to college. Based on information supplied by KIPP's home office and reported by Caroline Grannan, “the actual number of KIPP alumni who had started college [by 2008], KIPP spokesman Steve Mancini said at that time, was 447.” Score two big ones for irresponsible lies.


  1. To be specific about how Alter misled his readers, here's what he wrote:

    "At the 60 KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools, more than 80 percent of 16,000 randomly selected low-income students go to college, four times the national average for poor kids."

    In other words, he wrote that 12,400 KIPP alumni had gone to college.

    That was inaccurate, because since KIPP runs middle schools*, as Schools Matter correctly posted, only a tiny number of KIPP alumni had gone through high school and reached college age.

    Also, by the way, due to KIPP's eye-popping attrition, an accurate percentage going forward would use the number who STARTED KIPP schools as a base.

  2. Also, good catch on fact-checking Alter's claim that 20% of low-income students go to college. I missed that one. He's batting 0.00, isn't he? But no matter -- one can say anything favorable about KIPP and it becomes gospel, true or not.