KIPP's college success rate

Rick Hess wrote a great interview with Richard Barth, the president of KIPP's 99 charter schools. It's here. Both Rick and Richard are, in my mind, great guys -- Rick a pugnacious (and hilarious) scholar, Richard having created a level of transparency that I've never seen in any non-profit organization.

Just recently, KIPP released its long-term study of its earliest cohorts--those students who had completed eighth grade ten or more years ago from its initial Houston and New York City campuses. The report found that 33% had finished college within six years.

I cannot emphasize enough how admirable this is. MATCH has never done that. Though we're about to.

In fact, the only charter school I'd heard of to issue any sort of college graduation rate report was Downtown College Prep in San Jose, earlier this year (a small charter that Joanne Jacobs wrote about in her book some years ago).

RB: We have 1,000 KIPPsters in college today and will have over 10,000 in 2015. And we realized if we didn't get the story of what we're learning out to the KIPP network, we'd be deeply regretting it in 5 years.

RH: So what did you learn?

RB: First, our kids are outperforming national averages for completion. Of our eighth graders, a third are finishing with a BA degree in six years, versus 31 percent of all US students. So we're outperforming all Americans, and [doing] about four times what's expected for low-income kids, which is about eight percent. We also learned that over 80% of our eighth graders are going to college, but only a third are finishing. So while we're proud of what's going on, given what they've done relative to the whole population, we think we can do better.

We think there are a few core things we can do to get us to our next goal, which is a 50% completion rate over six years.

RH: What are those key things you need to do?

RB: The number one thing is academic rigor. We've committed to going kindergarten through twelfth grade in KIPP schools across the country. The original cohorts that we just [reported upon] only got fifth through eighth grade. So [we're going to] start with our kids earlier and stay with them longer.

Totally agree. Early on at MATCH High School (2003), we realized we needed to up the rigor. That's why we require all our juniors and seniors to take some Advanced Placement courses and Boston University courses.

The second thing is we've got to do a much better job of finding the right match when it comes to college. We are sending too many of our kids off to campuses that have low graduation rates.

We know that even at each level of selectivity, there are schools that have a much higher graduation rate than others. So we're convinced that one of the simplest and clearest things we can do is to form partnerships with colleges that are doing a better job of not just taking kids, but seeing that they finish.

We probably can benefit from trying to copy KIPP's work here.

We also think we can do a better job of making sure our KIPPsters are better aware of the financial costs of college and are preparing for that. It is pretty clear that as the original KIPPsters went off to high school, they weren't sure what it was going to take from a financial standpoint to get to college. We're piloting a match savings program, so for every dollar a family commits, they can get a match dollar.

My friend Sherry Riva runs an organization that does this, and has provided this to some families at Roxbury Prep and MATCH (as well as many others). It'd be great to grow this.

In addition, one of our founding teachers, Bob Hill, will change jobs next year. After 10 years teaching history at MATCH, he'll be leading a new effort to support our alumni in college. I'm hoping Bob can create a whole new paradigm of college support, but certainly we'll lean on the work of others, like the amazing Donald Kamentz at YES Prep in Houston.