New Study Finds San Francisco Bay Area KIPP Students Outperform Peers | SRI International

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New Study Finds San Francisco Bay Area KIPP Students Outperform Peers

Combination of Key Features Contributes to Success, Provides Lessons for Other Public Schools


Fifth-Grade Students Who Enter with Below-Average Scores

Significantly Outperform Peers in Public Schools by the End of Year One

MENLO PARK, Calif.— September 16, 2008A new, independent report identifies specific features of Bay Area Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools that, when combined, provide conditions that support higher student achievement. A rigorous analysis of student achievement data at three of the Bay Area KIPP schools shows a large and statistically significant effect of KIPP on academic achievement.

SRI International, commissioned by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, examined the implementation and impact of KIPP in five San Francisco Bay Area middle schools over a three-year period. Researchers concluded it is likely that the combination of four key features, which closely match KIPP’s guiding principles, helps KIPP students outperform similar students in their district. These features are:

  • A culture of high expectations for student academic performance and behavior;
  • More time for learning than traditional schools and support for struggling students;
  • A focus on tracking student progress and careful instructional planning; and
  • A philosophy of continuous improvement in which school leaders and teachers revisit and revise strategies for implementing KIPP’s principles.

“It is the combination of KIPP’s features that make these schools effective in increasing the achievement of predominantly poor and minority students,” said Katrina Woodworth, an SRI researcher and the study’s principal investigator. “Other schools or districts looking to emulate KIPP should not pick and choose elements of the KIPP approach and expect to see the same results. They must view and implement them as a suite of practices that work together to realize gains in student learning.” Researchers acknowledged that the challenge facing high-poverty schools and districts is how to implement these elements in concert with each other, especially how to engender student, parent, and faculty commitment to these principles when they do not opt in to the model.

In most grades, Bay Area KIPP students make above-average progress compared with national norms, and four out of five KIPP schools outperform their host district. At the end of fifth grade, KIPP students at the three Bay Area KIPP schools with available comparison data outperformed their matched counterparts who attended other schools in the same districts on the California Standards Test; statistically significant differences between KIPP and non-KIPP students ranged from 6 to 33 percentile points. Students who joined KIPP in the sixth grade also saw positive effects by the end of their first year, with KIPP students outperforming non-KIPP students by 9 to 34 percentile points.

KIPP schools’ higher-than-expected test score results draw both attention and claims that they “cherry-pick” high-achieving students from poor neighborhoods. This is the first report to closely scrutinize the praise and criticisms associated with KIPP, as well as key challenges facing Bay Area KIPP schools today.

In the three KIPP schools where they were able to draw comparisons, SRI researchers found that students with lower prior achievement on the CST were more likely to choose KIPP than higher-performing students from the same neighborhood, suggesting that, at least at these schools, cherry-picking does not occur.

As researchers analyzed the student achievement data and KIPP’s approach, they also identified challenges facing Bay Area KIPP schools, including high student attrition rates, teacher turnover, and low state and local funding. For example, 60 percent of students who entered fifth grade at four Bay Area KIPP schools in 2003-04 left before completing eighth grade. Annual teacher turnover rates have ranged from 18 to 49 percent since 2003-04.

Moreover, with less than $6,000 in state and local revenues, Bay Area KIPP school leaders need to raise anywhere from $400,000 to $700,000 annually to close the gap between the state and local funds that they receive and their true operating costs.

“This study shows that KIPP is effective at increasing student achievement among poor and minority students, a population California is desperately struggling to serve,” said Marshall Smith, education program director at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. “But instead of expanding the model, KIPP may have to limit expansion in California due to our chronic under-funding.”

The report, “San Francisco Bay Area KIPP Schools: A Study of Early Implementation and Achievement” by Katrina R. Woodworth, Jane L. David, Roneeta Guha, Haiwen Wang and Alejandra Lopez-Torkos, is available on SRI International’s Web site.

Other findings include:

  • Bay Area KIPP school leaders have substantial authority over their schools and cite teacher selection as their most critical function.
  • Bay Area KIPP teachers choose their own curriculum and in most cases draw on frequent assessments to track student progress and adjust instruction.
  • Bay Area KIPP educators create structured behavior management systems to explicitly teach students how to conduct themselves and to ensure that behavior does not interfere with teaching and learning.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 Bay Area KIPP students reported that the school rules are strictly enforced.
  • Bay Area KIPP teachers were nearly unanimous in attributing student success to the combination of high expectations for student learning and consistency in the behavior management system.
  • Almost all Bay Area KIPP students (95 percent) believe that their school will help get them to college. Similarly, virtually all Bay Area KIPP students reported that most or all of their teachers expect them to work hard (98 percent) and believe that all students can do well (95 percent).
  • Bay Area KIPP students have roughly 60 percent more instructional time than students in traditional public middle schools.

About SRI's Center for Education Policy

SRI's Center for Education Policy studies reforms that hold promise for improving the K-16 system of schooling and lifelong learning. The Center conducts research and evaluations on the design, implementation, and impact of educational programs, especially improvement efforts targeted at disadvantaged students.

About SRI International

Silicon Valley-based SRI International ( is one of the world's leading independent research and technology development organizations. Founded as Stanford Research Institute in 1946, SRI has been meeting the strategic needs of clients for over 60 years.

About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,, has been making grants since 1966 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy, population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A full list of all the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found at