Did KIPP game the U.S. News And World Report rankings?

Each year, U.S. News And World Report generates a report of the ‘best’ high schools in the country.  This year, the charter world has been celebrating because out of the top 100 schools, by the U.S. News rating system, 34 of them are charter schools.

There are a lot of ways to measure the quality of a high school.  The way that U.S. News does it is as follows:  75% of the score is the percent of 12th graders who get at least a 3 on at least one AP test.  25% of the score is the percent of 12th graders who took at least one AP test.  They call this weighted average the ‘College Ready Index.’  By including the participation rate, a school can’t inflate their scores by only allowing students to take the AP who are most likely to pass.

The school at which I teach, Stuyvesant High School, ranked 71th in the country by this rating, and 13th in New York state.  We had 805 seniors for that year and though nearly all the students who took APs passed them, most getting 4s and 5s on them, we have a grade cutoff for getting into the AP tests so our percent of seniors passing at least one AP was only 88% which is still a lot of students approximately 708 of them.  I’m not trying to make excuses, but just for reference, in another rating system last year, Stuyvesant was rated 4th in the country and 1st in the state.  Depending on what metrics are used, a school can get a completely different rating which means that some of the ratings (if not all) are invalid.

In looking at the list of New York high schools, a school that caught my eye was the KIPP Academy Charter school which was rated 29th in the country and 4th in New York state.  So I did a ‘deep dive’ into their numbers to see if I could find anything interesting in them.

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So KIPP Academy Charter school, it said, had only 58 seniors in 2014-2015 when this data was collected.  All 58 took at least one AP so that is 100% of them while 57 out of 58 got a 3 on at least one test, which was 98.3% of them which led to the ‘College Ready Index’ of 98.7, the 29th best score in the country and the 4th best in New York.

My first thought is that 58 students is not very much.  KIPP has something like 15 schools in New York.  Some are middle schools, some are elementary.  With all these schools feeding into their four high schools, I’d expect the graduating class at them to be more than 58.

The size of the senior classes for the four KIPP high schools in New York in 2014-2015 are as follows:

KIPP Academy: 58

KIPP Infinity: 49

KIPP AMP: 21

KIPP STAR: 35

So the other schools had even smaller senior classes, most notably the 21 at KIPP AMP.  In total, the KIPP network had 163 seniors in 2014-2015.  Looking at their enrollment from the New York State public data, I found that in the 2007-2008 school year these four schools had many more 5th graders than they had 12th graders seven years later

KIPP Academy: 74

KIPP Infinity: 78

KIPP AMP: 67

KIPP STAR: 72

So they had 291 5th graders back then but just 163 12th graders who completed KIPP schools for a rate of just 56%.

Checking the U.S. News and World Report data for the other three schools, I found the most intriguing piece of data yet.  What I learned is that the other three schools did not get a ranking because they don’t have a ‘College Ready Index’ since the 12th graders in those other three schools, evidently, didn’t take any AP tests.

So what we have is four KIPP high schools where one of them has nearly 100% of their seniors taking and passing an AP test and the other three where none of their seniors even take an AP.

So out of 291 5th graders in KIPP schools in 2007-2008, only the 57 students at KIPP Academy passed one AP test by senior year.  57 out of 291 is about 20%.  And 58 test takers out of 291 is also about 20% so their true ‘College Ready Index’ for the entire KIPP district is about 20, a far cry from the 98.7 that KIPP Academy got in the recent U.S. News and World Report ratings.

Is KIPP using KIPP Infinity, KIPP AMP, and KIPP STAR schools as dumping grounds for the students who are least likely to pass an AP and stacking the deck on the KIPP Academy school so it will have all the students most likely to pass an AP?  I don’t know, you’ll have to ask them.

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23 Responses to Did KIPP game the U.S. News And World Report rankings?

  1. Gary, thanks for monitoring things like this and exposing what certainly appear, on the surface, to be deceptive efforts to game the ratings. Though I don’t like tracking, I can see that an organization like KIPP could try to justify a decision to offer AP courses at only one of their four NYC sites. But even if we give them a pass for that, a 56% retention rate is abysmal, and strongly suggests a strategy to force out those students most in need of support. Public schools, of course, can’t do that; they have a commitment to serve all kids.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. drext727 says:

    Reblogged this on David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education and commented:
    Also interesting about this list is The Talented and Gifted Magnet High School in Dallas. It has been ranked near the top of this list frequently each year. They are the best and brightest in Dallas and surrounding communities. They have a requirement that all students will take AP exams, which is a major component of the ranking system.

  3. Lisa M says:

    It’s funny about all that “data” that is collected. It can be manipulated in so many ways to bias the truth. Fake news is all that it is and the “media” wants everyone to see them as credible? The truth is that the data was manipulated, children were used, and school systems pay to compete in these rankings. Parents don’t have a clue….they just read what’s in the paper and go from there. Who owns US News and World Report?….I don’t know, but I’m sure if you follow the money trail, it will lead to some charter loving think tank being backed by a money loving billionaire. These are sad times we are living in today, when children are being used for profit and left as collateral damage.

  4. Pingback: Gary Rubenstein: Did KIPP Game the U.S. News & World Report High School Rankings? | Diane Ravitch's blog

  5. This entire process is absurd. Who cares? The Calhoun School, where I’m Head, abolished AP courses many years ago because they are less interesting than what we can develop ourselves. The AP nonsense is also a significant cause of the over-stressed, anxious, eating disordered mess we are making of adolescence. The complete lack of AP’s, honors, GPA’s or class rankings has actually made our graduates more attractive to colleges and universities, including the coveted (ridiculously coveted) Ivy’s.

    If educators had integrity, they would uniformly boycott all ranking and rating systems, of schools or students. Gary is relatively sane, but Stuyvesant is an example of the self-fulfilling game that is used to “assess” schools. Take the kids who already do well and then take credit when they continue to do well.

    This whole exercise is a farce.

    However, anything that reveals the utter corruption of KIPP and other charter chains does have some value!

  6. ciedie aech says:

    Thanks for the much needed look at strategically hidden truth. The phenomenon of scores rising dramatically for the first years in much-reformed states right after NCLB was mandated actually had much more to do with administrators/specialists figuring out how to beat score penalties than it had to do with any changed student knowledge. Some states, in fact, did their penalty avoiding so well that they became known as the states to watch…and this premature lauding never stopped even after the penalty avoidance game stagnated and scores began to drop.

  7. TheMindFrame says:

    Those schools you mentioned are not high schools. They are 5-8 middle schools

    “The size of the senior classes for the four KIPP high schools in New York in 2014-2015 are as follows:

    KIPP Academy: 58

    KIPP Infinity: 49

    KIPP AMP: 21

    KIPP STAR: 35”

    • garyrubinstein says:

      These schools have 12th graders so they are high schools too

      • jmatosbl says:

        They do not. The only go from grades 5th to 8th. I was a teacher at KIPP STAR until the end of the 2014th school year. There are no high school students at any of those four schools. If you want to argue that the seniors from those schools didn’t do well at KIPP NYC College Prep high school, that’s a different argument. But the assertion that these four schools are high schools is simply incorrect.

      • garyrubinstein says:

        Wow. If I’m understanding this correctly, there is no KIPP Academy High School with 58 seniors even though it has just been rated as the 29th best high school in the country. Could it be that while the students from these four middle schools all feed to the one KIPP High School somehow they are still officially 9th graders in their old 5 to 8 schools. This would mean that KIPP NYC college prep did not have 100% AP participation rate but more like a 30% participation rate which would lower their US News rating considerably. If this is the case, it is an even bigger scandal than I had thought.

        Do you think this is accurate?

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  9. jmatosbl says:

    “Wow. If I’m understanding this correctly, there is no KIPP Academy High School with 58 seniors even though it has just been rated as the 29th best high school in the country. Could it be that while the students from these four middle schools all feed to the one KIPP High School somehow they are still officially 9th graders in their old 5 to 8 schools.”

    Yeah, there’s no such thing as KIPP Academy High School, the only KIPP High School in NYC is College Prep. I’m not sure how someone ended up with those numbers. Maybe those numbers are a breakdown of which MS the College Prep seniors come from, but I wouldn’t know. I’m pretty sure those kids wouldn’t be showing as 9th graders in any KIPP NYC middle school.

    “This would mean that KIPP NYC college prep did not have 100% AP participation rate but more like a 30% participation rate which would lower their US News rating considerably. If this is the case, it is an even bigger scandal than I had thought.”

    Seeing as the original numbers are out of whack, I’m not even sure what conclusions can be drawn from them. I couldn’t accurately say the number of students taking AP courses at College Prep, it’d just be speculation on my part.

  10. Pingback: 4th Best High School In New York Is A KIPP School That Doesn’t Exist | Gary Rubinstein's Blog

  11. Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé and commented:
    Discover the SPAM generated from crap by U.S. News and World Report’s school rankings.

  12. Why is my earlier comment still awaiting moderation?

  13. Cal Lightman says:

    This doesn’t surprise me. I worked at a KIPP school in Los Angeles. It’s a total disaster from the top down. The school is in a state of constant chaos. Half the staff quit last school year and half the staff plans on leaving this year. At some point KIPP became more interested in making money than actually educating kids. They care about attendance only because when it drops they lose funding. Special education is merely an afterthought for KIPP.

  14. Nat says:

    This is a whole new insight and gave me some idea of what’s going on. I am currently a freshman who is enlisted for AP courses for sophmore year and they have told us personally that we honor students going to AP are the top 20% of the school. I’ve seen that website before and it was honestly confusing to have every single person being AP tested, especially knowing how it is inside my own school. This scam is decieving on so many levels that it is upsetting to hear that my own school is being recorded under false information. The preferable name is KIPP College Prep, not too common with the name of KIPP Academy but it is still used somewhat.

  15. b says:

    Oops. Gary, your simple google maps search for KIPP high schools misled you. There’s only one KIPP high school in NYC. AMP, Star, and Infinity are all middle schools. They don’t have 12th graders, like you mentioned before. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I also worked at KIPP Star, like jmatosbl said. If you do a simple google search with the names of these schools you’ll clearly see that the three I mentioned are either elementary schools or middle schools. This should clear that up http://www.kippnyc.org/schools. On the other end of the spectrum, 8.2 million dollars in scholarships for last year’s graduating seniors is a pretty impressive number.

    • garyrubinstein says:

      There is one HS but KIPP treats them as 4 so they can put the top students into one and have a top rated school in US news. See the next post.

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  17. Erich Martel says:

    Gary,
    I read the exchanges on NYC’s KIPP schools. I have been following Wash., DC charter enrollment patterns. Each of the 16 DC KIPP schools at all grade clusters (PS-K; 1-4; 5-8; 9-12) is termed an “academy,” but only one is a high school.
    Like other charter high schools, DC KIPP’s College Prep Academy admits a large 9th grade class with a large drop in numbers by 10th grade (based on the “state” sup’t’s early October enrollment count). The four DC KIPP College Prep graduating classes (2013-2016) ave enrollment nrs were: 9th grade: 127; ave. 12th: 77; ave. adjusted cohort: 76; ave. grads: 65.

    KIPP began (I believe nationally) as schools serving grades 5 to 8.
    In DC, KIPP Key (5-8) opened in 2001, followed by another in 2005 and in 2006, both 5-8. In 2007 it opened a PS-K school. In 2009, three schools were added: a PS-K, a 1-4, and a 9-12 hs: KIPP Coll Prep [HS].
    In the current 2016-17 school year, each of DC KIPP’s 16 “academies” fits neatly into one of four grade clusters (in parentheses are the Oct 2016 enrollment totals for each grade):
    – five schools: PS, PK, K (528; 535; 533)
    – five schools: gr 1 to 4 (544; 535; 489; 520)
    – five schools: gr 5 to 8 (464; 433; 375; 333)
    – one high school: gr 9 to 12 (247; 142; 124; 81)

    The four KIPP Coll Prep cohorts that graduated in 2013 through 2016 started as KIPP 5th graders in 2005 through 2008. Their four-year average enrollment numbers from grade 5 through grade12 plus average number of graduates and average adjusted cohort are:
    gr5: 238; gr6: 234; gr7: 222; gr8: 202;
    gr9: 127; gr10: 105; gr11: 90; gr12: 77
    ave. adjusted cohort: 79.5; ave. nr. of grads: 65.

    It appears that KIPP decided to make high school performance data, esp. graduation rates, its crowning achievement and would do so by recruiting a large K through 8 source of students from which to sift and recruit for 9th grade. I’m not sure how they get past the lottery. If preference is given to KIPP 8th graders applying to the College Prep.
    I can send you the spread sheet with DC KIPP enrollment history, school openings and expansion.

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