The public-interest group Center for Media and Democracy made a startling discovery:


The powerful KIPP charter chain asked the US Department of Education to shield certain crucial data from public view, and the Department agreed to do so. With about 150 schools, KIPP is the nation’s largest charter chain, with the possible exception of the Gulen charter chain.


CMD notes that every public school is required to make its data public, but KIPP does not. Since KIPP millions of dollars in federal, state,and local funding, this is an unusual arrangement.



CMD reports:



“KIPP touts itself as particularly successful at preparing students to succeed in school and college.
“Yet, it insisted that the U.S. Department of Education keep secret from the public the statistics about the percentage of its eighth graders who completed high school, entered college, and/or who completed a two-year or four-year degree.
“A few years ago, professor Gary Miron and his colleagues Jessica Urschel and Nicholas Saxton, found that “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,” as reported by Mary Ann Zehr in Ed Week.
“Zehr noted: “‘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, who conducted the national study.
“Miron’s analysis was attacked by KIPP and its allies, who said KIPP’s success was not due to the attrition of lower performing students who leave the school or move to other districts. One of its defenders was Mathematica Policy Research, whose subsequent study was used to try to rebut Miron’s analysis. (That name will be important momentarily.)
“The Department of Education has been provided with the data about what percentage of KIPP students graduate from high school and go on to college, but it is helping KIPP keep that secret—despite the public tax dollars going to these schools and despite KIPP’s claim to be operating what are public schools.
Real public schools would never be allowed to claim that high school graduation rates or college matriculation rates are “proprietary” or “privileged” or “confidential.”
“Why does the Education Department’s Charter School Program “Office of Innovation and Improvement” defer to KIPP’s demand to keep that information secret from the public?
“Meanwhile, the KIPP Foundation regularly spends nearly a half million dollars a year ($467,594 at last count) on advertising to convince the public how great its public charters are using figures it selects to promote. No public school district in the nation has that kind of money to drop on ads promoting its successes.”


But that’s not all that is undisclosed.


“Even as KIPP was seeking more than $22 million from the federal government to expand its charter school network, it insisted that the U.S. Department of Education redact from its application a chart about how much money would be spent on personnel, facilities, transportation, and “other uses” under the proposed grant. KIPP also sought to redact the amount of private funding it was projecting.
“The agency’s compliant Office of Innovation and Improvement obliged KIPP.”


However, CMD found some of this information on IRS reports. What they discovered were large expenditures on travel, executive salaries, and advertising. Trips included lavish expenditures at Disney World.


“Not only did KIPP seek to keep the public in the dark about how it spends tax-exempt funding and how many KIPP students make it to high school graduation or college, it also sought to redact information “KIPP Student Attrition” by region and “by subgroup” and “KIPP Student Performance” on state exams on “Math and Reading.”


“The Office of Innovation and Improvement did as KIPP requested.”


Why would the Department acquiesce to KIPP’s request to treat this information secret? If charters are public schools, how can their data on costs and attrition be treated as “proprietary”?



KIPP was a favorite of Arne Duncan. He awarded $50 million of Race to the Top funding to KIPP, and another $50 million to Teach for America. In case you didn’t know, Richard Barth, the executive director of KIPP, is married to Wendy Kopp, the founder of TFA.




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