Accountability Discipline Education Industry Education Reform High School Graduation KIPP Charter Schools Philadelphia Privatization

What Happened to the Students Who Began KIPP-Philly in 2003?

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Marc Mannella opened the first KIPP middle school in Philadelphia in 2003.

He started with 90 students in fifth grade.

KIPP promised that students who stuck with the “no-excuses” regimen would go to college.

Avi Wolfman-Arent of WHYY in Philadelphia tracked down 33 of those students to find out what happened to them.

The former KIPPsters are now about 25.

Of the 90, 25 dropped out in the first year of middle school.

The students entered a world of incentives and punishments, of strict rules administered strictly.

It wasn’t right for everyone.

Of the 90 students who enrolled in KIPP Philly’s first middle school class, about half were boys. By the time 8th grade graduation arrived, enrollment was whittled down to 34 students — and only 11 boys remained….

Almost none of the KIPP alumni we interviewed did four years at one high school followed by four years at one college. All of them seemed to flounder or grow restless or get sidetracked somewhere along the journey up that mountain.

KIPP propelled them to high school — usually a Catholic school or a private school or a magnet school — but they didn’t stick there. KIPP’s lessons didn’t always follow them out the door…

Here’s what the numbers say.

Six years after high school graduation, 35 percent of the original KIPP Philly class had an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. At the seven-year mark, that number was 44 percent.

What does that mean?

In Philadelphia, about a quarter of students who graduate high school earn a college degree by the six-year mark. That overall Philly number would be lower if you tracked students back to eighth grade, like KIPP does.

There’s a prominent nationwide study that tracked students starting in 10th grade.

It found that eight years after high school graduation, about 14 percent of students from the lowest income quartile had a degree.

KIPP Philly students almost all came from poor neighborhoods, and the results suggest that they earned degrees at much higher rates — rates that are about the same as middle-income students.

“And that feels like we did something that was real,” said Mannella, the school’s founder.

There are serious caveats, though.

KIPP’s number doesn’t count all the kids who left over those four years. Some of those kids did graduate college. Some didn’t. It’s quite possible that the 34 who made it through KIPP were more likely to have long-term academic success for a whole host of reasons, no matter what school they attended.
Frankly this project is incomplete, too.

We talked with 24 of the 34 alum from the original class — as well as nine students who attended KIPP Philadelphia but didn’t finish. The ten graduates who chose not to talk may have very different experiences than the 24 who did

The author wonders what is the best way to evaluate KIPP. Graduation rates? College entry? College persistence? Employment?

KIPP is now the largest charter chain in the nation.

One thing we learn from this piece is that its strict discipline code helps some students, turns off others.

Its methods are not a panacea. Most kids who enter do not persist. For some, it is a lifesaver.

Perhaps the same might be said of the public schools that were closed to make way for KIPP and the public schools that accepted the KIPP dropouts and pushouts.

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