Whatever Happened To KIPP?

The KIPP network, founded by two 1992 TFA alumni, was once considered the ‘gold star’ of charter chains.  For a while their growth seemed inevitable, almost exponential.  They were all over the press, on Oprah, in Waiting For Superman, even present at the 2000 Republican National Convention.  But over the past two or three years, we haven’t been hearing that much about them.  Their growth seems to have flattened out and there has not been much press coverage of note.

In a recent blog post by Alexander Russo at ‘The Grade’, he wrote:

But KIPP charter schools seem like they don’t get as much media attention these days, do they?  That’s the impression I and some others have.  The thought made me wonder whether KIPP coeverage was down as steeply as it seemed, and if so, why?

He then speculates:

One obvious reason for the relative lack of attention in recent times is that the network isn’t shiny and new any longer (like Altschool) or headed by a hard-charging leader (like Eva Moscowitz).

The article then goes on to say that there is actually more coverage, but a different kind of coverage, and that they have lessened their ‘no excuses’ philosophy and have shortened their extended days so they’re not so controversial anymore.

It is funny that Russo doesn’t ever speculate that maybe a chain like Success Academies is getting so much more attention is not just because they have a ‘hard-charging leader,’ but because KIPP is not getting the ‘outcomes’ that reformers require.

Many KIPP schools are 5th through 8th grade, so it is hard to do an ‘apples to apples’ comparison with the Success Academy schools which begin in kindergarten.  So what I did was download the recent state test data for all the New York City Charter schools and examined just the ones that had kindergarteners in 2011-2012.  Those students, now in 4th grade, took the 3rd grade tests last spring.  In theory, at least, since all the schools have the same type of lottery, the incoming kindergarten classes should not be that different.  Then after having those students for four years, their 3rd grade test results should be comparable to the ‘growth’ those students made over the four years.   So comparing KIPP to the other 100 or so charter schools that had 3rd graders last year presented an illuminating graphic which could help Russo and others understand why we are not hearing so much about KIPP nowadays.

In the bar graph below, the 110 schools are sorted from highest percent getting a 3 or 4 on the ELA test to the lowest.  The Success Academies are almost all at the far left.  The 3 KIPP schools are marked with red bars.  The top performing KIPP school was 37th out of 110 with 41.9% getting a 3 or 4.  The second best KIPP was 66th with 27.3% getting a 3 or a 4, and the lowest was 90th with 17.2% getting a 3 or a 4.  On average, KIPP has lower test scores than 2/3 of the charter schools in New York City.


charters ela

For Russo to ignore the uneven outcomes of KIPP schools as a possible reason for their recent lack of attention is odd, but not surprising as reform cheerleaders are often blind to any objective evidence that does not support their narrative.

In New York City, all the KIPP schools funnel into one high school.  I actually visited that school a few years ago and witnessed for myself that mediocrity.  About two years ago that school moved into a brand new state of the art building.  Yet, we hear nothing from KIPP about the amazing things that are going on in that building.  Do they have a debate team, a chess team, a math team, some Intel semi-finalists?  Sometimes I’ll see a Tweet about how out of all their schools in the country there are five KIPPsters attending Columbia or something like that.  It’s never clear if this is a high number or the number you’d expect.  I guess the implication is that without KIPP none of those five students would have accomplished anything in life.


So for now, Russo will have to continue to wonder about, and KIPP will have to continue denying, their recent lack of luster.  Perhaps they are laying low for now, and then will suddenly announce that they received another couple of hundred million to expand.  I guess time will tell.

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20 Responses to Whatever Happened To KIPP?

  1. virginiasgp says:

    Gary, I think you would agree that the results are relative to the capabilities of the students. Is there any data regarding the growth of students in KIPP? I do not know. But I think it’s relevant. It’s not consistent to complain about Success Academy booting students for poor results (to enhance their overall average) and then not evaluating the overall aptitude level in KIPP schools.

    • Dienne says:

      Again I have to give you credit for creativity – at least when it comes to making excuses. You realize that there are plenty of other charter schools to the left of KIPP besides Success? And you realize that KIPP also skims and creams, just like Success? So I don’t think your explanation quite works. Try again.

  2. John Ewing says:

    I don’t often disagree with Gary about education, but this post makes me uneasy. Measuring success of KIPP by looking at test scores (alas, not actual scores, but “passing rates,” which are a poor substitute) is playing the reformer’s game. First, this is insufficient data to draw conclusions: What was the student composition? Did all students take the test? Does KIPP weed out certain students? And so forth.Second, and more importantly, test scores represent do not represent the real goals of education. We have insufficient information to know whether the status of those goals at KIPP. I’m not defending KIPP–I don’t know enough to do so–but I don’t want to condemn them using the same arguments that reformers use against public schools. Education is complex; measuring success is similarly complex.

    • Michael Fiorillo says:

      There is usefulness in doing this, because it shows that, even by their own invalid metrics, these people are failures.

  3. Michael Fiorillo says:

    Marketing and branding, when that’s all you’ve got, go only so far…

    • NewCharterTeacher says:

      Yes, it is all marketing. I left my public school job for the magical illusion of teaching KIPP. So, so fooled.

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  6. Jack says:


    Do your recall those whole “No Nonsense Nurturing”(NNN) methods used in privately-managed charter schools like KIPP. It involves, among other things, putting headsets and earphones on teachers with administrators barking orders at them while those teachers teach?

    On Edushyster’s site, teacher Amy Berard wrote an article that whole fiasco, offering her own dreadful first-hand experience with NNN:


    Here’s KIPP’s $360,000/year CEO Dave Levin singing the praises of “No Nonsense Nurturing,” employed by KIPP. It’s from this video designed to sell the NNN program:
    ( 00:57 – )

    ( 00:57 – )
    DAVE LEVIN: “THE ‘No Nonsense Nurturer’ program has transformed the lives of thousands of kids by transforming the practices of their teachers.”

    Right after this Feinberg quote, the video has a female teacher barking at students, “Eyes track the speaker! Eyes track the speaker!” There’s some sound classroom management for you.

    Now, you would think that Mike and his Co-CEO Dave Levin must love NNN, and their KIPP empire of schools so much that they would insist that their own children not miss out on having their “lives transformed” by NNN & KIPP, you know, like those “thousands of others” that he references.

    Think again.

    Well, check out this 2014 KIPP SUMMIT Convention video where Dave and KIPP Co-Founder Mike Feinberg answer a question about whether their own children will be attending KIPP schools (and experiencing NNN, of course):


    It’s the second video from the top, entitled, “A CONVERSATION WITH CO-FOUNDERS MIKE AND DAVE”. CLICK it (then expand to FULL-SCREEN, if you wish)…

    then go to about 49:05

    MIKE FEINBERG: “Gus and Abadit [Feinberg’s two children] are not going to go to a KIPP school…

    [begins rubbing his face],

    “… and that’s actually for–there are several reasons for that. I mean, you get into, for, you know, with a 10-thousand-kid waiting list, um, my kids have options, I don’t want to take away a seat from another …

    [more beard rubbing]

    ” … family that doesn’t have options, that’s, um, part of it, but at, with my parent ‘hat,’ I want most for Gus and Abadit. I would put them in a bunch of our primary schools in a heartbeat, knowing what a great education they would get, how well they would get taken care of …

    [makes a strangling motion with his hands].

    “… It would be unfair, I think, to Gus and Abadit, cuz’ in a KIPP school, they wouldn’t be Gus and Abadit, they would be Feinberg’s kids, and I don’t want them–I want them to grow up, and being in a school, being Gus and Abadit, and not be a fishbowl parent.

    “And I’ve seen this happen with other leaders’ kids, where, um, ah, within five minutes of being put in timeout, the school is talking about the kid being in timeout. I just want them to have a chance to be Gus and Abadit and, uh, as I said, Gus, if you know, later on, he wants to be …

    [begins scratching his face],

    “… or wear a KIPP shirt, with, with pride, and he wants to be a KIPPster …

    [starts rubbing his hands together]

    “… if he wants to come and tutor, and things like that, to find other ways to get him plugged in to the Team and Family… ”

    [looks over to Levin as to say, “Please, God, get me out of here!”]


    Over at SCHOOLS MATTER, Jim Horn did an analysis of this awkward moment:


    JIM HORN: “Corporate cult leaders, Mike Feinberg and David Levin, are their own biggest fans, and to prove it, they gave themselves 80 minutes onstage at the recent million dollar summit in Houston to answer some puffball questions for the KIPPnotized KIPPsters in the auditorium.

    “Oops, someone got this embarrassing question through…

    ” … ”

    “Fortunately for Feinberg, no one at the million dollar summit asked to see that mythical waiting list with 10,000 kids on it. If that were anywhere near the truth, we may wonder why KIPP schools like the ones in Memphis are having to pay back money for enrollment overestimates based on projections that never matched reality? Surely Feinberg could find one of those many under-enrolled KIPP schools where teachers are sent out regularly with their clipboards to beat the bushes like missionaries to find warm bodies to put in desks (or on the floor).

    “Notice, too, how Feinberg wants to protect the privacy of his own children from any public humiliation when they mess up at school, even if he is the co-designer of a system of KIPP paychecks that guarantee that every teacher of any KIPP child knows when he has been good or bad by checking the paycheck each KIPPster carries with him from class to class.

    “Remember, too, that public humiliation is standard operating procedure for children at KIPP, but protection from that is only important for Feinberg’s children and the children of the corporate whales the fund KIPP. I understand your quandary, Mikey.

    “Feinberg’s fumbling rhetoric and transparent body language cannot conceal the condescending corporate paternalism that is a defining characteristic of KIPP’s abusive corporate reform school testing camps. Despite the lame effort, how that paternalism shows through:

    “Feinberg has choices for his kids, but he wants to make sure that the children of the poor have a one, and only one option once the privatization and testing machine has closed most of the traditional urban public schools. Poor children need KIPP; rich kids don’t.

    “What happened to the advertised concept of ‘choice for the poor’?? Pure malarkey. The new paternalism demands that elites like Feinberg and Levin should decide what the poor must learn, and how they should learn it, and how they should prove that they do learn it.

    “In the end, passing tests is less important for that distant abstraction called college than it is for the Feinbergs and Levins of the world to know that these kids and their parents are towing the line that has been drawn for them by the Fisher family and the other coroporate overseers who pump hundreds of millions into these chain gangs for the poor.

    “Feinberg’s child, Gus, will have to find another way to become part of ‘Team and Family.’ He can wear his KIPP shirt (while inside the auditorium, for god’s sake), and he can maybe come tutor the poor kids and perhaps tell them some of the neat things he is learning out there in the world where children have choices.

    “Nah, forget that last part–the KIPPsters can’t afford to have any distractions–they have to prove their sponsors and handlers intentions are noble ones.”

    The first COMMENT to Horn’s piece nails it:

    Anonymous5:02 PM:
    “THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! As a former KIPP teacher, the world needs to see this video that shows how hypocritical KIPP really is. They brag about how ‘great’ their school is, but yet their own supreme leaders would not even allow their children to attend.

    “KIPP is a cult of the greatest magnitude. They have their own language, rituals, chants, and an overbearing sense of fear and intimidation. (This mentality applies to both students and staff) Turnover is massive at KIPP schools and the majority of teachers that I know who worked in a KIPP school had a horrible experience as well.

    “Support your local school, and keep big business charter chains like KIPP out of the picture.”

  7. NewCharterTeacher says:

    They’re not expanding because of the charter school glut. KIPP’s scores are mediocre across the board, they aren’t doing better than others charter networks.

  8. Jack says:

    OMG! I found the video of the former Success Academy parents confronting Eva Moskowitz, and it’s more intense than I thought.

    Indeed, this is an instant classic in the whole corporate reform movement, and the fight against it..

    It’s either HERE:


    OR HERE:


    “COMPLETE VIDEO: The 131st NYC City Law Breakfast with Eva Moskowitz.

    “On Friday January 22, 2016, the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School hosted the 131st City Law Breakfast. The event speaker was SUCCESS Academy’s Eva Moskowitz.”

    The “Perry Mason Moment” of the forum starts here at about 41:58.

    Watch how the moderator Ross Sandler, a New York City Law School professor moderating this event, goes to bat for Eva when Eva is criticized. Earlier, at the beginning of this video, his introduction to Eva was so fawning and gushing you may think that he was describing Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

    Later, Eva faces the heat from an angry Success Academy parent, who asks if Eva had ever apologized to parents whose children were harmed by being placed on the infamous “Got-to-Go List,

    After Eva says she has indeed apologized, this parent, Shanice Givens, points out to everyone in the room that Eva just lied. She’s one of those parents, and Eva never apologized to her.

    Hell is then unleashed … from Givens toward Eva… and then from moderator Ross Sandler towards Givens.

    This is some truly riveting footage — an instant classic in the whole corporate education reform controversy.


    OR HERE:


    ( 41:58 – 43:03 )

    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: “Good morning, Eva. How are you?”

    EVA: “Good morning.”

    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: “Hi. You didn’t shed any light on the ‘Got-to-Go List.’ Uhmm… I just want to know. Did you privately or publicly apologize to the any of parents that were affected by it.”

    EVA: “There’s been an enormous amount of coverage. I see Kate Taylor (the NY Times writer who penned the Got-to-Go List article) in the audience. There were two stories on it, and yes, I … I did (apologize). The (Got-to-Got) list existed for three days. As soon as it came to our attention — which was within about 24 hours of it being produced — the principal was brought into the school and severely reprimanded for his actions. I have personally have done many parent meetings at Fort Greene (Success Academy School) … uhh … because of that mistake.”

    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: “Hello. Sorry. I just wanted to say. My name is Shanice Givens- ”


    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: ” And my son was Number Three on the list.”


    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: “My son was Number Three (on the Got-to-Go List) and I NEVER got an apology from Ms. Eva.”

    MODERATOR ROSS SANDLER: “May I ask you to be courteous?”

    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: “I just want to say that she just said that she – ”

    MODERATOR ROSS SANDLER: (turning away from Given to the other mic)
    “We’re on this side now.”

    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: ” – publicly said something, and she NEVER said ANYTHING to me. My son was Number Three.’ ”


    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: (to Eva) “And you said that you ‘loved children so much’ ?
    Yet you STILL allow Mr. (Candido) Brown to teach?”

    MODERATOR ROSS SANDLER: (to some technician) “Turn her microphone off!”

    PARENT SHANICE EVANS: “He has wronged sixteen children and -”

    (Given’s MIC CUTS OFF)

    MODERATOR ROSS SANDLER: “This is not the place. This is an academic institution. We’re having a conversation. We’re going to this side (the other microphone) now.”


    There’s a whole mess o’ wrong goin’ on here.

    I don’t get the rationale of “This is an academic institution.” as justification for silencing this woman, and killing her mic. Shouldn’t an academic institution be a place for vigorous debate where all sides are allowed to offer their opinions.

    To be accurate, Sandler should have said, “This is an academic institution in which only those who, like me, heap unqualified praise Ms. upon Moskowitz, will be allowed to speak.”

    Immediately following this, a well-dressed pro-Success Academy parent — Thomas Lopez Pierre (sp?) mentioning in his remarks that he’s a candidate for NYC City Council — starts off with gushing praise for Eva and what Success Academy has done for his son. He even spouts the “My son was trapped in a failing school” line.

    In contrast to the parent criticizing Eva, Ross Sandler lets Pierre (sp?) run at the mouth while Pierre effusively praises Eva & Success Academy.

    Standing beside Eva, Sandler nods and smiles as if to say, “Now, that’s more like it.”

    However, that same parent, in mid-speech, then surprises everyone, and does a total 180. He goes on the same attack as Givens for Eva’s exclusive admission and expulsion policies. The moderator Ross Sandler again intervenes.

    ( 43:57 – 44:04 )

    THOMAS LOPEZ PIERRE: (polite tone) “With that said, I’m a critic of you, Ms. Moskowitz. And here’s the reason why. You have failed to provide every public school student who wants to attend Success the opportunity, and until you are able to serve ALL of the kids who want to get into your wonderful charter school, Success will not be a ‘success.’ Thank you. ” (walks away from the mic)

    EVA (clearly frazzled): “Thank you. I do have a lot of critics, and it comes from a variety of places … and that’s … uhh … part of the … wonderfulness … of New York- ”

    The douchey moderator Sandler swings into action again, saying,

    MODERATOR ROSS SANDLER: (visibly irritated)
    “Let me just step in a second. This is an academic institution, and decorum is required of everybody, and I have no doubt that everyone n this room will honor that.”

    “Oh shut up, you pompous bag of wet brownies!!!”

    … is what I would have shouted at Sandler at this point.

    The angry parents are not yet through with Eva.

    Remember Fatima Gehdi, the parent who’s upset at Eva who, as part of Eva’s retaliation against Gehdi, illegally released Gehdi’s son’s private discipline records to the press?

    Well, she got in her licks, too … at 49:05




    I don’t have time to transcribe this, so just watch Gehdi yourself at: (this is what provoked Eva’s “customer service” comment)

    Watch how, again, the moderator Sandler tries but fails to silence this parent.

    Here’s moderator Ross Sandler in a nutshell …

    When praising Eva, you can talk all you want.

    When criticizing Eva, you are showing bad “decorum” and must be shut up, or have your mic turned off.

    COUNTDOWN to the moment when, per Eva’s request, Sandler and New York City Law School takes down this video:

    “One, two, three .. “

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  11. mollypbass says:

    Gary, I appreciate your insights and willingness to look into the truth of what is happening currently in education. Is it possible that KIPP schools are not doing as well on paper because they do not kick students out to the extent that other charters do? I’m a teacher in Memphis, TN, and the KIPP schools here seem to really work with all of their students. This may mean that their test scores are lower, because other charters are finding ways to suspend and expel their most “difficult” students. What do you think?

  12. spottedtoad says:

    It could be that KIPP’s results are less astonishing because they’re mostly real, and Success Academy’s are mostly not.


  13. ciedie aech says:

    Oh well. How about we sit down and simply talk to those kids who have been pushed out of KIPP? Their stories can break your heart…

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