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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

KIPP's Underwhelming College Completion Rates Are Even More UnderWhelming

 Rupert Murdoch’s education czar, Joel "McChoakumchild" Klein, has a blog post at Valerie Strauss’s page today that touts, once more, a sketchy report published by the KIPP Home Office on KIPPster college graduation rates:
KIPP followed its 8th grade graduates, who were overwhelmingly from poor (85%) and minority (95%) families, and found that, ten years later, 1/3 of them had graduated from college, a rate that was about four times their expected graduation rate and the same as that of white students. 
Let me see if I can offer a little context for this claim.
In the SRI study (2008) of five KIPP schools in the Bay Area, researchers found at least a 45 percent attrition rate among students in five Bay Area KIPP corporate charter schools between grades 5 and 8:
 Together, the four schools began with a combined total of 312 fifth graders in 2003-04, and ended with 173 eighth graders in 2006-07 (see Exhibit 2-3). The number of eighth graders includes new students who entered KIPP after fifth grade (p.12) (my bolds).
So the combined 8th grade cohort from the five schools was 55 percent of what it was 4 years earlier, and this 45 percent attrition rate includes recruits along the way who enter the Bay Area KIPPs in grades 6, 7, and 8.  We do not know how much the original 2003-2004 5th grade cohort actually shrank. 55 percent?  65 percent?

In determining college completion rates for KIPP’s recently-released college completion report, the KIPP Home Office conveniently uses as a baseline the percentage of students who finish 8th grade at KIPP's segregated chain gangs, rather than the percentage of kids who complete all four grades at KIPP.  This brand-protecting approach does not take into account the 45 percent (or more) attrition rate between grades 5-8.

KIPP’s home office folks declare that “as of March 2011, 33 percent of students who completed a KIPP middle school ten or more years ago have graduated from a four-year college” (Executive Summary).   If we were to actually take into account the large number of low-performing and resistant students that KIPP “loses” between grades 5 and 8, the percentage of college completers when compared to the number who begin at KIPP would be cut by almost half.

Even so, let’s use the KIPP-friendly number of 55 percent completion rate for grades 5-8.  When multiplied by .33 (college completion rate for students who completed KIPP before 2001), we find that 18 percent of those KIPPsters who began KIPP in 5th grade 14 or more years ago have actually completed college. 

Now this 18 percent is still slightly more than double the national low income college completion rate arrived at by the KIPP Home Office, if we can believe the 8.3 percent figure for “comparable students from low-income communities across the country,” which is based on extrapolations from some often-incomplete U. S. Census data interpreted by Tom Mortenson.  Note, too, that Mortenson’s 8.3% graduation rate for students from families in the bottom quartile of income is based on attainment by age 24, six years past high school, whereas KIPP’s numbers of 33% college grad rates are for KIPP graduates who may be as old as 27 or 28.  

In any case, KIPP’s use of Mortenson’s extrapolations to arrive at its 8.3 percent college graduation rate for low income students should be taken with a big grain of salt, particularly in light of the true difficulty in getting accurate college graduation data based on income:
A major issue in higher education is the disparities in enrollment, persistence, and attainment among low-income students.  IPEDS [Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems] does not collect income data on students and therefore does not have the ability to provide graduation rates by student income (American Council on Education, 2010, p. 9).
The bottom line: the graduation rate, at best, for students who began KIPP fourteen or more years ago is an underwhelming 18 percent, almost half of the rate reported by the KIPP Home Office, which has not bothered to submit its college completion "research" procedures for peer review. Given the unlimited financial resources of the KIPP network of hedge funders and billionaires, along with its ongoing and unceasing assistive interventions to get former KIPPsters through high school and into and through college, this 18% figure is even less impressive. 

With a similar level of resource allocation in public schools for mentoring, coaching, and advising beyond middle school, one can only imagine what the results could be if the same billionaire investment and energy went into creating socioeconomically diverse public schools where kids actually learn to think, rather than being trained as culturally-neutered and positivized drones who only know how to say “how high?” when Authority says “jump.”

That scenario, however, is not in keeping with "preparing for the global economy," which means working harder, longer, and for less. Oh yes, and being nice about it in the meantime.

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