21,000 students attend 82 KIPP Schools in 19 US states as well as Washington, DC. KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program. According to the KIPP website, "Eighty percent of our students are from low-income families and eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meals program, and 90 percent are African American or Latino."
KIPPs five operating principles or pillars are:
KIPP schools have become the darlings of the business world because they promote the very values that many business leaders want to see in schools. Crucial elements of the KIPP formula are the back-to-basics teaching methods, the extra time the students work, and a strict system of discipline “that a drill sergeant could admire”. It is a formula which promotes the value of hard work and obedience.
KIPP schools have had much favourable media coverage and have been extolled on popular televison programmes such as 60 Minutes and Oprah Winfrey.
KIPP Schools are supported by the KIPP Foundation, established by Doris and Don Fisher, founders of the Gap clothing empire, to help spread KIPP schools. Don Fisher chaired it before his death. The Doris & Don Fisher Fund have donated more than $60 million to KIPP Schools since 2000. The Walton Family Foundation has donated between $25-40 million during that time. Other donors are shown here. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also been a major supporter of KIPP Schools.
A central pillar of KIPP schools is the amount of time spent in school and the amount of time spent on homework. KIPP founders and their supporters assume that more time means more learning and therefore better test scores.
Ten year olds arrive at school by 7.30am in the morning and don’t leave till 5pm or later. They must come to school on alternate Saturday mornings and spend another 3 or 4 weeks at school during the summer break. They do 2 or 3 hours homework (called ‘life work’ in KIPP schools) each evening as well. For some children who travel an hour to get to school and home again this means setting out for school at around 5.15am, getting home around 6.15pm and working on homework till 10pm. They attend school for more than 60 percent more time than other students in public schools.
KIPP teachers are on call 24 hours a day, every day, and are provided with a mobile phone so that students can telephone them at any time of the day with questions about their homework. The long hours of school and the extra calls on their time means that KIPP teachers tend to be early in their careers and without their own children at home. Annual teacher turnover is very high, varying from 18 to 49 percent since 2003-04. Teachers get paid 15-20 percent more each year than in other public schools but this doesn't compensate for the 60 percent extra school time.
There have been few studies of KIPP school performance but they tend to show marginally better performance than equivalent public schools. Critics argue that this small improvement is far less than one would expect from the 62% extra time that students spend in schools. They also claim that because parents and children choose to go to KIPP schools they are more motivated to learn than the average urban public school student. Furthermore, KIPP's commitment requirements mean that students who don't work hard are expelled, and this maintains higher than average test scores. In this way the KIPP formula depends on KIPP schools being the exception rather than the rule for urban public schools.
A 2008 study of KIPP schools in the San Francisco Bay area, by SRI International, found that while KIPP students tend to outperform other public school students, there are high student and teacher attrition rates: "For example, 60 percent of students who entered fifth grade at four Bay Area KIPP schools in 2003-04 left before completing eighth grade." And it is the lower performing students who drop out.
Also the KIPP schools depend on additional funding of "anywhere from $400,000 to $700,000 annually" to supplement the public funding they receive to pay for the extra teaching time and other operating costs.
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