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Bruno: New Evidence To Support The KIPP Model

7080721_1412fe24df_nAs a follow up to my apparently-controversial suggestion that KIPP's success is due in part to their ability to provide kids with more instruction, there's a new NBER paper with some relevant evidence.

The author finds that a school budget reform in Israel in 2004 demonstrates "that spending more money and spending more time at school and on key tasks all lead to increasing academic achievements with no behavioral costs" and "without reducing social and school satisfaction".

Making these results a bit more relevant to the KIPP discussion is that "the effect on test scores...is much larger for pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds and it is also more pronounced in schools populated with students from homogenous socioeconomic backgrounds." Homogeneous, low-SES populations are precisely who KIPP serves.

As I said in the previous post, I continue to be surprised at the extent to which its critics are willing to dismiss the possibility that KIPP's results are due at least in part to the quantity of instruction they provide. As this new paper illustrates, the more-school-time model is likely to work precisely because it recognizes the challenges of out-of-school factors like poverty. In other words, it looks to me like KIPP is - in at least this case - implementing a "reform" that the "don't ignore poverty!" crowd should be able to get behind.

And really, what's the model by which the instruction provided to kids at district schools helps them learn but extra instruction doesn't? I think it's obvious that they help in both cases, but KIPP's critics seem not to notice the tension between supporting "normal" amounts of instruction while dismissing additional instruction as useless.

Again, none of this is to say that KIPP doesn't also benefit from selection effects or that they're not benefitting from additional financial resources. The explanations for KIPP's results might be varied and complex, and that's OK. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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I did say that they'd get slightly higher test scores in the short run (with the qualifications you mention). The issue for me is whether or not the kids will benefit from getting up to grade level in the long run. THat is, if a kid in fifth grade reading at the 2nd grade level is given 2 more instruction hours a day, and because of this boost reads at fifth grade level at the end of the year, what does that mean? Will he continually need additional instruction hours, just to get to grade level?

But the study says "that spending MORE MONEY and spending more time at school" [emphasis mine] showed results (albeit the results seemed to be just test scores). More time WITH appropriate resources can be a good thing. More time alone is not much at all. To me, the bigger issue is that, while more QUALITY time might be helpful, it's like 37th on my list of things that might improve teaching and learning in my classroom. Why can't we start with libraries, social workers, smaller classes, arts, music, gym, counseling, aides and extra adult support, less testing and more relevant project based curriculum? As I heard Miguel Del Valle-IL politician and former candidate for Chicago mayor- say recently, "As you improve the quality of the school day, the day will lengthen itself."

@Ed Realist - I think the default assumption should be that it's better for kids to be stronger academically at any given time, all else equal.

Odds seem good to me that a student with a less academically-enriching out-of-school environment will need additional instructional time to continue making progress even roughly similar to a more fortunate peer, yes. I don't see why this undercuts the argument that additional instructional time helps kids.

I also don't see a reason to focus on arbitrary grade-level cut-offs rather than absolute levels of achievement.

@Katie - I don't really disagree as such (except about project-based learning), but note that one of the findings was that there seemed to be little spillover from subjects receiving additional time. This is one very circumstantial reason to suspect that any additional school time students get should, in fact, be dedicated to specific purposes. This isn't inconsistent with, say, better libraries, but it's not obvious to me that putting a library in would help kids more than giving them more time in science, math, history, art, etc.

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