Date of Graduation

8-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

Gary W. Ritter

Committee Member

Brinck Kerr

Second Committee Member

Robert Maranto

Third Committee Member

Tom Smith

Abstract

KIPP Delta College Preparatory School (KIPP: DCPS), an open-enrollment charter school, opened in 2002 in Helena, Arkansas. Since its opening, KIPP: DCPS students have consistently outperformed their peers in the Helena/West Helena School district, and moreover, recent test scores suggest that white students and minority students are achieving at the same rate, essentially eliminating the achievement gap that persists between whites and minorities elsewhere in the state. In fact, KIPP's achievement record was so influential that when Arkansas lawmakers instituted a cap on the number of open-enrollment charter schools in the state, they made an exception for KIPP, essentially allowing for an unlimited number of KIPP schools to operate in Arkansas.

Yet, despite the national reputation of this charter school network that led lawmakers in Arkansas to exempt KIPP network from the charter school cap in the state, there has been no single evaluation of KIPP performance that compares KIPP students to traditional public school peers on matched observable academic and demographic variables present prior to the KIPP student's eventual enrollment at the charter school. Thus, the purpose of this study is to evaluate KIPP student academic performance to determine whether this policy has been a success. Further, the extent to which students enroll and then remain - or leave - KIPP (attrition) is also examined.

In summary, with regard to student attrition and achievement at KIPP: DCPS as compared to their traditional public school (TPS) feeder district peers:

* KIPP student attrition rates are statistically significantly higher than the set of academically and demographically matched peers from the TPS feeder districts, with the largest differences observed at the grade 5 to grade 6 transition year. However, when KIPP attrition is compared to the aggregated TPS attrition rates from grades 5 through 8, only the grade 5 to 6 transition year attrition rates are statistically significantly higher at KIPP.

* Students who enroll in KIPP during grade 5 and spend at least one year in the charter school from grade 5 through grade 8 outperform their traditional public school peers on the Arkansas Benchmark Exams in math and literacy.

* Of first time grade 5 KIPP entrants who are binned together by the number of years they stay in KIPP, only those students who remain enrolled through grade 8 show positive differences in math and literacy achievement as measured by the Arkansas Benchmark Exam when compared to their matched TPS peers.

* A subset of first time grade 5 KIPP entrants that remained enrolled in the charter school through grade 8 outperformed their matched TPS peers on the Arkansas Benchmark Exams in math and literacy.