Why is the KIPP Character Report Card Interesting?

The KIPP Character Report Card involves a set of metrics developed by KIPP for use in tracking their students. In 2005 Dave Levin, one of KIPP’s co-founders, began to look seriously at issues of student character. KIPP had always stressed both academics, including test performance, and personal traits such as empathy and determination. Their slogan, and title of a book about KIPP by Washington Post writer Jay Mathews is Work Hard: Be Nice. What KIPP leaders found is that those students who performed best on achievement tests were not always those that persisted in college after leaving KIPP. Those that went on to success later in life were often those who were more tenacious rather than academic in their school years. Since the goals of KIPP were to build life success rather than academic success, Levin began to search for other ways to evaluate progress. After connecting with professors from the psychology departments at the Universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania who had done work on the psychology of character and another school leader on this topic, Levin began work that has resulted in a character report card for KIPP students. Levin and KIPP had found that student achievement was not as strong a predictor of college and career success as determination and perseverance. While doing well on tests was important, it was not sufficient. KIPP developed a student character report card with 11 dimensions that complements, and is in contrast to, student achievement. There are three reasons I find the KIPP Character Report card historically interesting.

    1. It is a new species of educational information. Until it was developed by KIPP there was no similar way of ‘measuring’ student character growth. Even if one would prefer a different mix of elements in this report card, as a formal measurement system it is unique.

    2. It is an authentic metric. This report card has grown out of KIPP’s direct work with its population. Typically districts are directed through policy to use certain types of data and through the nature of these policies (ex: NCLB) become compelled consumers of the information. With the character report card, KIPP has become an information producer.

    3. The collaboration was without an education school. Typically collaborations around education occur between disciplines and schools of education. The prototypical collaboration is education psychology, but there are also cases of education and linguistics, education and information science, and education and political science that occur between a host discipline and education scholars. In the case of the KIPP report card, the collaboration is direct between this influential member of the reform community and a traditional academic discipline.

While this is not the same as being discussed in Educational Researcher (a refreshing possibility), it is an interesting form of progress.
I don’t know how well this Character Report Card works in real practice and how it can be adapted for use in other contexts. Still, it is interesting as an example of change in the educational data space.

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