One of the benefits of finding public schools that work is the chance to study them and discover exactly what they are doing that other schools are not doing. Sadly, this rarely seems a blessing to the educators at those schools, who have to fill out surveys, sit for long interviews and have strangers recording their every move. Often they feel like Michael Phelps might have felt, told to take a drug test every time he won an Olympic gold medal.
I sense these often intrusive assessments have been particularly galling for many teachers at KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program). It has become the most studied school network in the country, one more indication that it is probably also the best. KIPP serves children from mostly low-income minority families at 66 schools in 19 states and the District, a network way too big for most researchers to handle. But since KIPP began to expand in 2001 from the two successful charter middle schools created by co-founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, scholars have been examining pieces of the growing enterprise.
KIPP has cooperated with the research; one of its “Five Pillars” — its philosophy of success — is “Focus on Results.” Five independent studies of KIPP have been done so far. A sixth has just been released, available at http://policyweb.sri.com/cep/publications/SRI_ReportBayAreaKIPPSchools_Final.pdf.