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.
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.