Kauffman Foundation’s Charter School Shows Significant Academic Impacts

Kauffman Foundation’s Charter School Shows Significant Academic Impacts

Mar 16, 2016

Students at a unique charter school serving low-income families in Kansas City, Missouri, have achieved substantially higher academic growth after three years compared to other public school students in the city, a new Mathematica Policy Research study finds. The positive impact of the Ewing Marion Kauffman School on its students compares favorably to the average impacts reported in other charter school studies from around the country.

As described in a new report and issue brief, Mathematica Policy Research’s analysis of data from the Kauffman School’s first three years of operation showed sustained academic growth in math and reading, as measured by the state’s standardized tests. When compared to the growth achieved by other Kansas City public schools, three years after enrolling in the Kauffman School, students achieved approximately 1.35 additional years of learning growth in math and 1.29 years of additional learning growth in reading. 

“The Kauffman School is having a substantial positive impact on student achievement,” said Mathematica researcher Matthew Johnson, who is leading the student outcomes evaluation as part of an ongoing five-year study of the Kauffman School. “The average student at the Kauffman School entered substantially below the state average in terms of math and reading scores, and performed above the state average after three years at the school.”

Background on the School

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation opened the school in fall 2011 to serve low-income families in its home city, promoting an approach to education that includes high attendance and behavioral expectations, ambitious academic goals, an extended school day and year, extensive professional development for all staff, and increased mathematics and reading instructional time. The school began with a fifth-grade class and is adding a new class each year until it becomes a fully enrolled middle school and high school (grades 5 through 12).

Noting that the Kauffman Foundation is the first grant-making foundation to directly start a charter school in the U.S., Claudia Gentile, director of the Kauffman School evaluation, said that Mathematica’s study will provide insights for any organization considering starting a charter school, as well as administrators of current charter and general public schools.

“Although other charter schools have utilized some of the same approaches in various combinations, the Kauffman School’s particular complement of hallmarks is unique,” Gentile said. “At the end of our five-year study, we will be able to answer questions about what it takes to support students who begin middle school three or four years below grade level so that they have the skills and habits to succeed in high school and college.”

Moving Forward

Mathematica is currently completing the fifth year of the Kauffman School study, which is funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Mathematica researchers use academic performance data provided by the Kauffman School and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to analyze the impact of the Kauffman School on student achievement. To learn more about what works at the Kauffman School and about ongoing challenges, the study includes analyses of behavioral impacts; surveys of students, teachers and parents; observations of classroom instruction; focus groups with students and teachers; as well as interviews with school staff, Kauffman Foundation staff, and parents.

In addition to the third-year impact report and issue brief, Mathematica researchers published a paper on insights from the Kauffman School study, to be delivered March 17 at the annual conference of the Association for Education Finance and Policy.