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Gregory Camilli, (303) 492-8391,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

What Makes KIPP Effective?

Review examines a recent study by Mathematica Policy Research

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 30, 2013) – Despite inconsistent and often poor results, charter schools have been offered as a model for education reform. The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) is one charter school program that has shown promising results that may provide information for scalability. A recent study from Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) suggests that KIPP middle schools may actually boost test-score growth by as much as eight months to eleven months over a three year period. A new academic review finds that the benefits are positive but overstated in terms of months of gain.

The study, KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes, concluded that the effects of KIPP were "large enough to be educationally meaningful."

Gregory Camilli, University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed the study for the Think Twice think tank review project. Camilli is an expert in the use of statistics and measurement in social science research. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) produced the review, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Professor Camilli notes that the study was carefully planned and executed. "[The study] represents a thorough and ambitious attempt to evaluate the benefit to students of attending Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) middle schools from (primary) grade 5 to grade 8."

Despite the careful execution, Camilli's review cautions that the results appear to be overstated for two reasons.

  • Translating outcomes into "months" of additional learning is an inexact science and can lead to absurd results if taken literally.
  • Reported measures of effectiveness that take attrition into account are smaller than the estimates used to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of KIPP.

The review notes that the KIPP impact varied across schools, but the factors that set KIPP schools apart were not conclusively identified by MPR. Positive achievement outcomes were slightly correlated with a few organizational features of schools with some behavior issues. However, Camilli cautions "the correlations are too low to be taken as guidance for instructional policies."

In terms of usefulness, Camilli's review is largely complimentary to the MPR study and concludes: "Future work evaluating the persistence of KIPP impact will be key to drawing a conclusive judgment of the educational significance of KIPP schooling."

Find Camilli's review on the Great Lakes Center website:

Find KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

This review is also available on the NEPC website:


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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