I'm a little baffled by the KIPP Foundation CEO and President Richard Barth's explanation to Rick Hess of what KIPP intends to do to increase college completion among KIPP alumni:
RB: The number one thing is academic rigor. We've committed to going kindergarten through twelfth grade in KIPP schools across the country. The original cohorts that we just [reported upon] only got fifth through eighth grade. So [we're going to] start with our kids earlier and stay with them longer. The second thing is we've got to do a much better job of finding the right match when it comes to college. We are sending too many of our kids off to campuses that have low graduation rates. We know that even at each level of selectivity, there are schools that have a much higher graduation rate than others. So we're convinced that one of the simplest and clearest things we can do is to form partnerships with colleges that are doing a better job of not just taking kids, but seeing that they finish. We also think we can do a better job of making sure our KIPPsters are better aware of the financial costs of college and are preparing for that. It is pretty clear that as the original KIPPsters went off to high school, they weren't sure what it was going to take from a financial standpoint to get to college. We're piloting a match savings program, so for every dollar a family commits, they can get a match dollar.
This certainly suggests that KIPP's experience is that the capacity of a middle or high school academic program to increase college completion is constrained by many external factors. That "schools alone" can only solve the problem by dramatically expanding the scope of what "schools" do. And, in turn, that focusing policy solutions on charter school networks is an incomplete strategy, and at best horribly inefficient compared to, well, what every other advanced country does.