KIPP Schools API Scores Rank Among LA Unified’s Best
Vanessa Romo | August 30, 2013
Among the mixed bag of Academic Performance Index scores for LA Unified released by the California Department of Education yesterday were a handful of gems.
Several of the brightest, including the highest score for any school in the district as well as the highest scoring middle school, belonged to KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter schools.
It’s welcome news for the San Francisco-based network of schools which is celebrating 10 years of operating campuses in south and east Los Angeles and is expanding to nine campuses this year from seven.
“We’re thrilled about the (API) scores and especially proud of all of our students and teachers,” Marcia Aaron, Education Director for Los Angeles’ KIPP network of schools said. “But we still have some that we’re working on.”
Four of KIPP’s seven schools operating in 2012-13 academic year scored above 900 — that’s well over the state’s 800 API target. The other three schools scored between 717 and 789:
- The KIPP Empower Academy in south LA, earned a score of 991, making it the highest performing school in LAUSD and the 10th-highest performing school in California.
- KIPP Comienza Community Prep in Huntington Park, scored 979, making it the third highest performing school in LAUSD.
- KIPP Raices Academy in East LA earned an API score of 969, the 6th highest performing school in LAUSD.
- KIPP LA College Prep in Boyle Heights earned a score of 916, down from 925 last year. Still, it was the highest performing middle school in LAUSD for the third year in a row.
While only about half of LA Unified 228 charters met the 800 standard, several factors contribute to the high scores for KIPP. For starters, the charter schools are very small compared with traditional district schools, each founded with only two grades at a time, adding a new grade level each year.
Empower Academy, for example, served only K-2 students.
KIPP schools also practice extended learning days. The average school day lasts nine hours, and students attend two-weeks of summer school every year.
For the KIPP schools that didn’t reach 800, Aaron says the staff is “doubling down” on providing teachers with extra professional development support. They’re also planning for more academic intervention for 5th graders across all campuses.
“The concepts that are taught in higher grades are far more complex and they require more complex teaching,” she said.
As children get older the differential between students at the low end and the high end increases.
“In middle school we will have students whose scores will range from Kindergarten to 8th or 9th grade in different subjects,” Aaron said. “Our typical incoming 5th grader is performing below our exiting 2nd graders.”
But as KIPP elementary schools matriculate 4th graders, whose average API scores is a 983, and funnel them into network middle schools, Aaron says she expects to see more gains.
Still, API scores are not the endgame, she said.
“At KIPP we’re all about college so it’s a long way before they receive their college degree,” she said. “There’s still lots of work left to do.”