Last week UH announced a promising new partnership with the Knowledge Is Power Program, a national charter school system born in Houston. While most charter schools, on average, do not achieve better student outcomes than standard public schools, KIPP is an exception. The program has been nationally successful, increasing opportunities for thousands of low-income students to attend the college of their choice. This partnership with UH would provide support service to KIPP alumni, such as a university liaison and mentoring programs.
KIPP, featured in the popular education documentary “Waiting for Superman,” was founded in 1994 by Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, two teachers that had been involved in the Teach for America program. What began as a fifth-grade public school program in inner-city Houston spread to a second academy in New York City and farther. Today there are 109 KIPP Academies in 20 states, educating over 27,000 students.
While charter schools like KIPP have been touted as a solution to America’s education problems, many studies examining the effectiveness of charter schools have reached disappointing conclusions. For example, studies in Michigan and California found that charter school programs did not result in any significant improvements in student outcomes compared to public schools. In contrast, KIPP schools are some of the highest-performing charter schools in the nation, and independent studies have determined that KIPP schools increase college enrollment, improve academic performance and raise standardized test scores.
Many KIPP students are the first in their family to attend college, and the red tape of financial aid, enrollment and registration can be quite daunting. UH will begin working with KIPP students as early as middle school to help prepare them for the college admissions process. UH has committed to increase the number of KIPP students enrolled at the University by 50 percent by 2014. Currently, 79 Coogs are former KIPP students.
According to a UH press release, “beginning in Summer 2012, UH will host a pre-college seminar for KIPP students and their families to further educate them about the UH application and admissions process and the expectations of college-level coursework. In addition, UH has committed to developing a suite of support systems that will help KIPP alumni succeed on campus.”
More than 85 percent of KIPP students come from low-income families, and would otherwise not have access to a college preparatory education. Only 30 percent of Americans have obtained a bachelor’s degree; and for the lowest 25 percent of earners, only 8 percent do so. Almost 40 percent of KIPP alumni achieve this goal, with 79 percent obtaining some level of college education. This collaboration between KIPP and UH, one of ten partnerships in the nation, should help more KIPP alumni obtain a college education.
By providing an education to capable students who may not have otherwise had an opportunity to attend college, KIPP is not only improving the lives of these students, but it is also enhancing our nation’s productivity. This affiliation will enable more students to earn a college education.
Together, KIPP and UH can help Houston’s children beat the odds and succeed. This program will have a positive impact on the community for years to come.Emily Brooks is an economics senior and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.