The Importance of Time Well-Spent
Eric Horowitz is a Research Analyst for TASC.
Mathematica’s new evaluation of 43 KIPP middle schools paints a bright picture of the charter network’s academic results. Compared to a control group of demographically similar students, KIPP students made larger gains in state tests of math, reading, science and social studies. Given that the KIPP schools in the study averaged 8.8 hours of learning per day and 191.5 school days per year, the positive findings should reassure advocates of expanded learning time.
The fine print of the evaluation also provides support for a key expanded learning principle—that more time alone is not what’s important to school success, but rather how extra learning time is used. All KIPP schools have longer learning days than conventional public middle schools. Researchers found that within the sample of KIPP schools, those with the longest of longer school days were not as successful in improving student achievement. On the other hand, more time spent by students on the four core academic subjects that were tested—math, English Language Arts, science and history—had a positive relationship with higher student achievement. Whether KIPP schools reaped greater benefits from more learning time depended on how that time was used.
The lesson is that expanding school time is not a solution in itself. For KIPP schools, effective use of time meant a focus on core subjects, but it’s up to each school or program to determine its own goals and ways to most effectively deploy time.
The full report (PDF, 1.3 MB) contains much more detail on academic findings and a mixed picture of KIPP’s effects on student attitudes.