Archives for category: KIPP Charter Schools

Gary Rubinstein is the Myth-Buster of the Resistance. He has achieved this eminent position because of his intolerance for hype, propaganda, and lies.

In this post, he bust the myth that low-income charter school graduates have a dramatically higher college graduation rate than low-income public school graduates.

In fact, he shows, charter school graduates have the same college graduation rate as their mothers!

Education Reform propaganda at The74 would try to make you believe that while low income students generally graduate from college at a rate of about 9%, charter school graduates complete college at a rate of 3 to 5 times that.

The main flaw in any comparison between the college graduation rates of charter school graduates to low-income students, in general, is that the charter school students do not represent a random sampling of the general population of low-income students.

In The Alumni, Richard Whitmire says that charter schools that have 5 times the expected college completion rate are ones that only counted their students who persisted until 12th grade in their charter schools.  Since for some charter schools, this only represents about 25% of the students who started in that charter school, this even more of a biased sample.  But, Whitmire explains, the one network that has the most valid way of doing a fair comparison is the famed KIPP network.  Since KIPP counts, in their data, any students who enrolled in KIPP, even if they left soon after starting.  And he says that KIPP students, including ones who didn’t persist at KIPP, graduate college 3 times the expected rate.

Reform supporting billionaire John Arnold commissioned Mathematica, a data analysis company, to study the college enrollment and college persistence of KIPP students.  Instead of comparing KIPP students to the general population, they compared KIPP students to students who had applied to the KIPP lottery but did not get into KIPP through the lottery.  This is a much more valid way of measuring the impact of KIPP.  The big takeaway, as I wrote about in my previous post, was that students who applied to KIPP, whether or not they got into KIPP, had a college persistence rate of about 3 times the general low-income population and that students who applied but didn’t get into KIPP had about the same college persistence as students who applied and did get into KIPP.  So students to apply to the KIPP lottery are the ones who, on average, were much more likely to persist in college — something that Whitmire never mentions in The Alumni.

But this Mathematica report includes some other relevant data that I didn’t pick up on when I wrote the last post.  Fortunately there was a discussion among some readers who commented on the last post which pointed this out.

In 2018 the National Center For Education Statistics published a report called ‘First-Generation Students College Access, Persistence, and Postbachelor’s Outcomes.’  In it they say that about 70% of students who have a parent who completed college also complete college compared to about 35% of students who do not have a parent who completed college.  This confirms what most people would expect for so many reasons and this is why we celebrate when students are the first in their family to graduate college.  It means that the descendants of those students will also be more likely to go to college…

At this point, Gary displays a graph from the Mathematica study.

Notice that last line.  It says that of the students entering the lottery about 27% of them had mothers who finished college.  This makes the fact that about 30% of the students in the study (which includes students who got into KIPP and also students who did not get into KIPP) have persisted in college through four semesters even less surprising.


Gary Rubinstein has a deep aversion to hypocrisy, hypes, and propaganda.

He read a widely publicized report saying “research shows” that graduates of KIPP have higher college completion rates than their peers.

But then he discovered that the research shows no significant difference between KIPP students and their peers in college completion rates. 

His post debunks Richard Whitmire’s erroneous claim that KIPP students finish college at a rate three to five times greater than students who went to public schools. It is also a valuable lesson in reading and interpreting research findings or claims that “research shows.”

He begins:

The way reformers misuse data follows a very simple and predictable plan:  First they get some skewed data, then pick a ‘researcher’ to interpret the skewed data.  The ‘researcher’ then writes a report which gets touted in The74, EduPost, and eventually even makes it into more mainstream publications like USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.  Since the report is filled with nonsense and half-truths, within a few weeks the truth comes out and the report is discredited, but not before the damage was done and the spin has made it into folklore.  When this happens, the reformers will then ‘move the goalposts’ and get some more skewed data and start the process over again.

An example of this is the July 2017 report by Richard Whitmire called ‘The Alumni‘.  Whitmire has written books about both KIPP and about Michelle Rhee so I think you get the idea of what his point of view is.  In this poorly researched project he concludes that “Data Show Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average“.

This was probably the easiest report I ever debunked.  The biggest flaw was that for most of the charter schools, they were only counting the percent of graduating seniors who persisted in college and then comparing that percent to the overall percent of all low-income students — an apples to oranges comparison.  Whitmire acknowledges this in another post about the methodology in which he says that only KIPP counts students who leave the school before they graduate and that their numbers are much lower, but still at 38% which is at least triple the expected graduation rate for low income students.

A second flaw, and this one is very difficult to compensate for, is that charter school students are not a random sampling of all students since many families choose no to apply to them.  So you get a biased sampling even if you do count all the students who get into the charter school and not just the ones who make it to graduate from the charter school.  And even though I and others have discredited his report, it is something that still gets quoted in the main stream media.

Just recently, however, I learned of a report generated by Mathematica and funded by the John Arnold Foundation.  I think that Mathematica is a very reputable company and even though reformers often hire them to produce reports, sometimes those reports reach conclusions that reformers were not expecting.

In this case, the report called “Long-Term Impacts of KIPP Middle Schools on College Enrollment and Early College Persistence” , reached a result that completely contradicts Whitmire’s claim that “Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average”.

Read on to see just how overblown is the KIPP myth about the college success of their students

Here’s the relevant summary of what they found:

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Parent activist Valerie Jablow is a whistle-blower about charter school abuse in the District of Columbia.

In this post, she describes the sweet deal that KIPP has worked out to its benefit.

It is a “game of insiders,” she writes.

Ferebee-Hope is a perfect example of how the mayor on down is enabled by law and practice to ignore every member of the public regarding the future of DCPS school facilities. In the case of Ferebee-Hope, however, the consequence of that disregard to the poorest ward in the city is dire–and appears to accrue directly to the benefit of one charter (and mayoral benefactor), KIPP.

Destroying Ward 8 Education Rights

Between November 2013 and January 2014, and about 6 months after public comment ended, a clause was inserted in the Comprehensive Planning and Utilization of School Facilities Amendment Act of 2014 that allows the mayor to turn any DCPS school over for a charter at any moment. (Yes, really: see D(ii) of that link to the law.) As DC public school expert Mary Levy has noted, there was no discussion of this clause by council members at the bill’s mark-up. Indeed, until the legislation was approved by the council in April 2014, no one in the public was aware at all of this provision (nor had a chance to object to it before it was approved).

In the case of Ferebee-Hope, it thus appears the mayor is simply exercising her right to turn the facility over for charter RFO without public deliberation.

But the loss of Ferebee-Hope as a school of right has far-reaching ramifications for Ward 8 DCPS schools of right, some of which are projected to be overcapacity in that area in less than a decade. Without Ferebee-Hope, there will be no way to accommodate those students in their schools of right in that area—which means that any student population in that area (currently very high and projected to grow 16% by 2025, per an August 8 community presentation by the deputy mayor for education (DME)) will inevitably benefit whatever charter school locates in Ferebee-Hope…

Charter schools in DC often complain that they struggle for facilities–but some appear a bit more, uh, equal to that struggle than others.

Indeed, this scheme ensures that whatever the public wants, or doesn’t want, with respect to their DCPS facilities can ultimately get reduced to whatever a charter school wants or doesn’t want–depending on how well-informed that charter school is, of course. Though we may never know the insider’s game here fully, certainly DCPS deputy chancellor Melissa Kim knows well KIPP’s ambitions, having worked for the charter before directly coming to DCPS as a central office administrator–and after showing no hesitation about the possibility of future DCPS closures.

Public facilities are simply closed and handed over without public involvement to private corporations. Anything wrong with that? Yes, everything. It is a theft of public property to give it away to a private charter corporate chain.

Marc Mannella opened the first KIPP middle school in Philadelphia in 2003.

He started with 90 students in fifth grade.

KIPP promised that students who stuck with the “no-excuses” regimen would go to college.

Avi Wolfman-Arent of WHYY in Philadelphia tracked down 33 of those students to find out what happened to them.

The former KIPPsters are now about 25.

Of the 90, 25 dropped out in the first year of middle school.

The students entered a world of incentives and punishments, of strict rules administered strictly.

It wasn’t right for everyone.

Of the 90 students who enrolled in KIPP Philly’s first middle school class, about half were boys. By the time 8th grade graduation arrived, enrollment was whittled down to 34 students — and only 11 boys remained….

Almost none of the KIPP alumni we interviewed did four years at one high school followed by four years at one college. All of them seemed to flounder or grow restless or get sidetracked somewhere along the journey up that mountain.

KIPP propelled them to high school — usually a Catholic school or a private school or a magnet school — but they didn’t stick there. KIPP’s lessons didn’t always follow them out the door…

Here’s what the numbers say.

Six years after high school graduation, 35 percent of the original KIPP Philly class had an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. At the seven-year mark, that number was 44 percent.

What does that mean?

In Philadelphia, about a quarter of students who graduate high school earn a college degree by the six-year mark. That overall Philly number would be lower if you tracked students back to eighth grade, like KIPP does.

There’s a prominent nationwide study that tracked students starting in 10th grade.

It found that eight years after high school graduation, about 14 percent of students from the lowest income quartile had a degree.

KIPP Philly students almost all came from poor neighborhoods, and the results suggest that they earned degrees at much higher rates — rates that are about the same as middle-income students.

“And that feels like we did something that was real,” said Mannella, the school’s founder.

There are serious caveats, though.

KIPP’s number doesn’t count all the kids who left over those four years. Some of those kids did graduate college. Some didn’t. It’s quite possible that the 34 who made it through KIPP were more likely to have long-term academic success for a whole host of reasons, no matter what school they attended.
Frankly this project is incomplete, too.

We talked with 24 of the 34 alum from the original class — as well as nine students who attended KIPP Philadelphia but didn’t finish. The ten graduates who chose not to talk may have very different experiences than the 24 who did

The author wonders what is the best way to evaluate KIPP. Graduation rates? College entry? College persistence? Employment?

KIPP is now the largest charter chain in the nation.

One thing we learn from this piece is that its strict discipline code helps some students, turns off others.

Its methods are not a panacea. Most kids who enter do not persist. For some, it is a lifesaver.

Perhaps the same might be said of the public schools that were closed to make way for KIPP and the public schools that accepted the KIPP dropouts and pushouts.

Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP in 1994, was swiftly fired in 2018 after two KIPP graduates accused him of sexual impropriety.

Now Feinberg is suing KIPP.

Valerie Strauss reports:

A founder of the KIPP charter school network who was fired in 2018 after being accused of sexual misconduct is suing the organization, saying the allegations were false and that his career and reputation have been destroyed by the actions of KIPP.

KIPP executives called the lawsuit filed by Mike Feinberg “baseless and frivolous,” and said they “regret” that he is putting his accusers and the “entire KIPP community through further distress.”

Feinberg, who in 1994 co-founded a Texas school that grew into the nation’s largest charter network, filed the lawsuit Thursday and is seeking a jury trial and punitive and other damages. He has consistently denied an allegation that he sexually abused a student in the late 1990s. The allegation Since the Washington Post is triggered two investigations…

Feinberg’s lawsuit says that he was never given “detailed information about the allegations” against him and that if he had, he could have “provided facts that would have disproved them.”

“KIPP’s public statements following Mike’s termination were false and inflammatory,” the lawsuit says. “KIPP knew that such a serious allegation would destroy Mike’s career in education and be personally devastating to him, his family and friends. But KIPP didn’t care. What mattered most to KIPP was that Mike be removed and his career be ruined. In that, KIPP succeeded.”

Since the Washington Post is behind a paywall, here is another account, in a Texas paper, with more detail.

On top of punitive damages, Feinberg is suing for actual damages, including mental anguish, loss of society and loss of earning capacity.


Texas Public Radio describes Betsy Devos’s audacious plan to overwhelm San Antonio with charters created by two corporate chains: IDEA and KIPP.

Some of the new charters will open in middle-class areas with good public schools.

Apparently, DeVos just wants to torpedo public schools in a major Texas city.

Camille Phillips of TPR reports:

San Antonio’s largest charter school network is gearing up for a fast-paced expansion over the next three years. IDEA Public Schools plans to add 15 schools in Bexar County by 2022, doubling its local enrollment to nearly 24,000 students.

It is part of an ambitious larger plan by the Rio Grande Valley-based charter network plan to add 120 schools in Texas, Louisiana and Florida by 2024. IDEA has gotten a big boost to help make that plan happen: four federal grants in five years worth more than $211 million combined.

This year, the U.S. Department of Education awarded IDEA its largest grant yet: $117 million to expand classrooms and launch new charter schools.

“We cast a vision for our growth plan, and then it has to be paid for somehow. So this just gives us confidence that what we envision in terms of growth will actually become a reality,” IDEA regional director Rolando Posada said.

When Posada came to San Antonio seven years ago, he said he made it his goal to have an IDEA school less than 10 minutes away from every family.

“We realized that this was one of the biggest cities in the country with one of the biggest needs. And so my vision was to put a school everywhere on the map of the city of San Antonio,” he said….

Several of IDEA’s new schools will likely be located in the Northside school district, one of the region’s wealthier and higher performing districts.

Northside Superintendent Brian Woods said he finds it interesting that charter schools are no longer limiting themselves to areas where the traditional public schools are struggling.

“If you have an area that’s being served extremely well, why would you need to introduce a duplicative service?” Woods asked.

DeVos gave KIPP $88 million, and it too plans to expand its presence in Texas.

Mark Larson, chief external officer for KIPP Texas, said KIPP is creating a growth plan to determine where to expand next in the state, but “a sizeable chunk” of the $88 million awarded to the national KIPP Foundation is reserved for Texas.

“We have full intention to continue to grow and continue to grow in the San Antonio market,” Larson said.

DeVos gave $15 million to another charter network to open new schools in Texas.

One of our readers, who identifies herself as Chiara, recently explained why charters rely on federal funding to expand.

She says they know they would never be funded by popular vote as public schools are. The purpose of the federal funding is not only to help charter schools (like KIPP, funded by billionaires like the Waltons), but to bypass democracy.

She wrote:

The second of 20 San Antonio IDEA Public School campuses is headed to the South Side and and is scheduled to open in fall 2019.

”The new campus — which has yet to be named — will be built on an eight-acre plot of land on the corner of South Flores Street and West Harding Boulevard.”

If IDEA had to go to the public and ask for facilities financing to build and operate each of 20 new public schools, the public would reject all or some of the new schools, because they would (rightfully) ask why they’re replicating a system they already have. There would be a long public debate on public investment. They would have to scale back plans or scrap them completely.

Charters know this, so they use federal and private financing. If they used local facilities funding they would have to get the consent of the public.

When ed reformers say they want local facilities funding remember that if they had local facilities funding the approval process would have to go thru the public, and the public would object to funding 20 new school buildings that replicate schools they already have. That would make it impossible to plunk down 20 new charter schools.



Back in March 2019, Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant released a study of the federal Charter Schools Program on behalf of the Network for Public Education.. That study, “Asleep at the Wheel,” found that about a third of the charters that received federal grants in the $440 million program either never opened or closed soon after opening. The amount of money wasted was about $1 billion over several years. The Department of Education failed to monitor wherevthe Money was going and how it was spent.

Burris has been analyzing states that received federal charter money and has concluded that the initial estimates were understated. In the states she has reviewed, 40% of the charters were failures. Some had no name. Some were not even charters.

The extent of waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal CSP is appalling, as is the ED department’s failure to pay attention to where the money goes.

The initial impulse for the CSP, created during the Clinton administration, was to jumpstart innovation. Now, it is a slush fund for Friends of Betsy and a ready supplier of millions to big corporate charter chains like KIPP (which recently got a federal check for $86 million) and IDEA (which has collected $225 million in two years). Neither of these corporate behemoths are start-ups. Neither is needy.

Congress should eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program. It feels no need, other than greed.

Next time you meet a candidate at a town hall, ask him or her if they will pledge to eliminate this wasteful slush fund.


This article in Education Week by two researchers—Joanne Golann and Mira Debs—ask why leaders of “no-excuses” charter schools think that children of color need harsh discipline. They interview parents and discover what they really want:

As researchers who have taught in and studied these schools, we found that parents’ attitudes were not that simple. The Black and Latino parents we interviewed in a no-excuses middle school valued discipline, but viewed it as more than rule following. They wanted demanding academic expectations alongside a caring and structured environment that would help their children develop the self-discipline to make good choices.

Recognizing the peer pressures their children faced, these parents told us that they did not want their children to become “robots” or “little mindless minion[s], just going by what somebody says.” Their concerns echo an earlier study that one of us (Joanne Golann) published in 2015, questioning whether the no-excuses model’s emphasis on obedience adequately prepares students for the self-directed learning skills they need to be successful in college.

What their children actually get is boot-camp discipline, where parents are called for the smallest infraction, like laughing during a fire drill.

No-excuses students are typically required to wear uniforms, sit straight, with their hands folded on the table, and their eyes continuously on the teacher. At breaks, they walk silently through the halls in single-file lines. Students who follow these stringent expectations are rewarded with privileges, while violators are punished with demerits, detentions, and suspensions.

The researchers say that Montessori schools get good results without harsh discipline in a climate that encourages creativity and collaboration.

I have always wondered where the no-excuses charters found bright young college graduates willing to enforce their harsh rules. Many of them presumably studied in progressive schools and colleges. How did they learn to enforce harsh rules? This “special” and harsh treatment of children of color smacks of colonialism.


CNN says that Senator Bernie Sanders will deliver a major address on education on Saturday. 

He will call for a flat ban on for-profit charters.

He supports the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on new charters.

Most important is this:

The Vermont independent also will call for a moratorium on the funding of all public charter school expansion until a national audit on the schools has been completed. Additionally, Sanders will promise to halt the use of public funds to underwrite all new charter schools if he is elected president.

That would mean elimination of the federal charter slush fund, which has wasted nearly $1 billion on schools that never opened or that closed soon after opening. This program, called the Charter Schools Program, was initiated in 1994 to spur innovation. It is currently funded at $440 million a year. Secretary DeVos used the CSP  to give $89 million to KIPP, which is already amply funded by the Waltons, Gates, and other billionaires and is not a needy recipient. She also has given $225 million to IDEA, part of which will be applied to opening 20 charters in El Paso.

If Senator Sanders means to eliminate CSP, that’s a very good step forward.

Every other Democratic candidate should be asked what they will do about the federal charter slush fund.



This is good news!

The House Appropriations Committee issued its budget report. Betsy DeVos requested an increase for the federal Charter Schools Program, from $440 million a year to $500 million. But the education appropriations subcommittee cut the appropriation to $400 million. This is a program that is riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse, as the Department of Education’s own Inspector General pointed out in the past, and as the Network for Public Education pointed out in its recent report called “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride.”

Thank you to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairperson of the education appropriations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. She is a deeply knowledgeable member of Congress who is committed to equity and works tirelessly to meet the needs of the American people for well-funded public schools

The NPE report found that one-third of the charter school funded by the federal government either never opened or closed soon after opening, costing taxpayers close to $1 billion in wasted funds.

Here is the report of the House Appropriations Committee. It increased the funding of well-respected programs that DeVos and Trump wanted to slash or kill, while cutting back on the Charter Schools Program (start reading at page 182).

Just in the last year, Secretary DeVos gave $116 million to a single charter chain, IDEA, which intends to flood the small El Paso district with charters; and she gave a grant of $86 million to KIPP. This concentration of funds in the hands of corporate charter chains was certainly not the intent of the program, which was meant to spur start-ups and innovation, not to enlarge established charter chains. KIPP, in particular, is amply funded by the Walton Family Foundation and a dozen other major foundations. It is hard to understand why this wealthy and powerful charter chain needs federal aid.

Charles Barone, the policy director of DFER (the hedge fund managers’ organization that pretends to be Democrats), expressed disappointment!

The Democratic state parties in California and Colorado have denounced DFER as a corporate front that should drop the word “Democrat” from its title.

Real Democrats support public schools, democratically governed and open to all, not corporate charter chains or private management.

By the way, the NPE report had no external funding. It was produced by the research of our brilliant staff and written by Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant.