By Mary Ann Zahr

Education Week–March 31, 2011

KIPP charter middle schools enroll a significantly higher proportion of African-American students than the local school districts they draw from, but 40 percent of the black males they enroll leave between grades 6 and 8, says a new nationwide study by researchers at Western Michigan University.

“The dropout rate for African-American males is really shocking,” said Gary J. Miron, a professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, and the lead researcher for the study. “KIPP is doing a great job of educating students who persist, but not all who come.”

With 99 charter schools across the country, most of which serve grades 5 to 8, the Knowledge Is Power Program network has built a national reputation for success in enabling low-income minority students to do well academically. And some studies show that KIPP charter schools have succeeded in significantly narrowing race-based and income-based achievement gaps between students over time. While not disputing that track record, the new study attempts to probe some of the more unexplored factors that might play into KIPP’s success.

It concludes, for instance, that KIPP schools are considerably better funded on a per-pupil basis than their surrounding school districts. The KIPP schools received, on average, $18,500 per pupil in 2007-08, about $6,500 more per student than the average for other schools in the same districts, according to the researchers’ analysis of federal 990 tax forms filed by schools reporting both public and private sources of funding. The study reports that nearly $5,800 of that per-pupil amount is private donations and grants.

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