195. What Makes KIPP Work? A Study of Student Characteristics, Attrition, and School Finance. 2011.
Author: Gary Miron, Jessica L. Urschel, and Nicholas Saxton

While several studies have considered the outcomes related to KIPP schools, this study examines two key inputs: students and funding. The study finds that while KIPP serves more students that qualify for free and reduced lunch than local schools districts, it serves fewer students with disabilities and students classified as English language learners. The study finds high levels of student attrition in KIPP schools; a finding that is common for high poverty schools and in line with earlier research on KIPP. In its closer examination of attrition data, this study found that African American males were substantially more likely to leave KIPP schools. Alternative explanations for student attrition in grade cohorts over time—such as higher retention rates—could not explain the drop in enrollment since the size and demographic composition of students in entry grades did not change from year to year. The study found that while charter schools typically receive less in public revenues—largely due to spending on special education, student support services, and transportation—the KIPP schools were actually receiving $800 more per pupil in public sources of revenue than local school districts. While KIPP schools reported no private revenues in the federal district finance dataset, a review of IRS 990 tax forms revealed that KIPP schools were receiving an average of $5,700 per pupil in private sources of revenue in 2008. Combined, the evidence suggest that during the 2007-08 academic year KIPP schools receive—on average—$6,500 more per pupil than local districts. The per pupil estimates of private revenues exclude revenues received by the KIPP Foundation, and instead considers only private dollars given to the KIPP regional groups or independent schools. The study argues that KIPP is a model that serves public education by pushing the discussion of increased instruction for children in poverty and for its unique approach to training, mentoring, and supporting urban school administrators. The study finds, however, that because of selective entry and exit of students and the higher levels of funding received by KIPP this model may not be easily replicated in traditional public schools.
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