In today’s NJ Spotlight, JerseyCAN’s Michele Mason and Janellen Duffy take stock of the “sizeable strides” made by students attending Camden’s renaissance schools, hybrid district/charter schools that enroll neighborhood students. Contrary to common criticism of charter schools — that they “skim off” less-poor and more motivated student — the children at KIPP, Mastery, and Uncommon are representative of Camden’s entire student population:
In year one, KIPP and Uncommon served kindergartners and Mastery served students in grades K-5. As of last spring, 99 percent of KIPP students, 97 percent of Camden Prep (Uncommon) students, and close to 97 percent of Mastery students qualified for free lunch.
In addition, “renaissance schools” served English Language Learners (ELL) — 5 percent of KIPP students and 10 percent of Mastery students were ELL. It is clear from the data that the “renaissance schools” did in fact serve Camden students with the greatest needs.
Also, between 16% to 19% of renaissance students qualify for special education services. For comparison’s sake, at Thomas Dudley Family School, a traditional Camden district school that serves students pre-K-8th grade, 15% of students are special needs.
Read the whole editorial for preliminary student outcomes. Here’s one example:
What about KIPP? According to the nationally normed Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment that measures student learning growth over time, data showed that nationally, the average KIPP kindergartner started in the 37th percentile in reading. By the end of the year, the average student was in the 63rd percentile nationally. In fact, KIPP went from having 10 percent of its students in the top quartile to 41 percent in the top quartile for reading. In math, their average student started school in the 25th percentile nationally and ended the year in the 68th percentile, with 5 percent of students starting the year in the top quartile and 51 percent of students ending the year there. These gains were the largest across the high-performing KIPP NJ network.
For any educator more invested in student well-being and less invested in political target practice, the fundamental question is, “are the students better off or worse off since the advent of renaissance schools in Camden?” Here, the data tells the tale, and that’s good news for students, families, and Camden Public Schools.