Looking at KIPP, Coolly and Carefully

Jay Matthews:

Some critics decry the way the Knowledge Is Power Program presents itself as the savior of inner city education. My answer: KIPP doesn’t do that. We sloppy journalists do.
Let me present Exhibit A: The latest annual report card from the KIPP Foundation in San Francisco. It has 93 pages of remarkable data. (See, there I go again, making KIPP the miracle cure. Let me change that to “interesting” data.) The report card tells how well each of the KIPP schools is doing, but it does not claim to be saving our cities.
I understand why we education reporters try to make KIPP sound like more than it is. We are starved for good news about low-income schools. KIPP is an encouraging story, so we are tempted to gush rather than report. We don’t ask all the questions we should. We don’t quote critics as often as we ought to. We don’t emphasize how new and incomplete the KIPP data is. But none of that is KIPP’s fault. Data costs money, and KIPP tries to use most of its funds to educate kids.
One of the best things about KIPP, a network of 52 independent public schools in 16 states and the District, is that it tries very hard to make the statistics it has available to everyone. Focusing on results is one of the organization’s basic principles. Anyone can order a free copy of the new report card by going to www.kipp.org. And on page 57 you will find numbers that help explain why KIPP is firing its middle school in Buffalo, N.Y., the sixth time a KIPP school has left the network.

2006 KIPP Report Card.