Gary Rubinstein was one of the earliest members of Teach for America. He is today its most incisive critical friend or friendly critic. In this post, he remembers the days that Dave Levin and Michael Feinberg presented their KIPP plan to a TFA audience and were boed off the stage. Now, however, they are superstars.

Gary reviews KIPP’s current record. Currently, he says, KIPP has an attrition rate of 40%. Their college graduation rate is higher for low-income students than other schools.

However, he writes:

“Another thing I noticed in the annual report is that the SAT scores from their juniors are horrific. Now I’m not the one who says that test scores are everything, but reformers do, so when I see KIPP Newark, which has gotten a lot of attention lately, and KIPP Washington DC with SAT scores in the 1200s, that’s about 400 per section which you could get by answering about five questions per section and leaving the rest blank, I have to wonder how well those students will succeed in college.

“Funded, in part by the Waltons, KIPP is a bit like the Walmart of charter schools. And just like Walmart may have some good things about it — maybe prices there are low, I don’t know — KIPP might be good for the kids who are a ‘good fit’ for it. But also like Walmart, the negatives of KIPP seem to outweigh the positives. This is why the gut instinct of those 1996 corps members back in the day was correct.”