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KIPP 3D Academy in Houston

A group of KIPP 8th graders gathers for a pep talk at KIPP 3D Academy in Houston.

Middle schools have been called by some the tough "dumping ground" of public education. They represent a difficult level of education often characterized by ill-defined curriculums, inadequate resources and teachers inexperienced at coping with a hard-to-manage age group sandwiched between the enthusiasm of early elementary students and the greater maturity of high school students

In 1994, Michael Feinberg and David Levin, two young teachers from "Teach for America," targeted this educational trouble spot with a program they called KIPP – the Knowledge Is Power Program. They deliberately organized their program to serve low- income children, mostly minorities. Today, more than 75% of KIPP students nationwide are eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program, and 95% are Latino/Hispanic or African American.

KIPP’s success has challenged many stereotypes about race, class and academic performance. One key element of KIPP’s success is time on task. With a long school day (7:30 to 5 p.m.), Saturday classes and three and a half weeks of summer school for everyone, KIPP students spend 67% more time in class than regular public school students. In the classroom, teachers utilize a variety of devices such as repetitive chants and visual aids to help children remember the material they need to absorb. To help after school, teachers make themselves reachable by phone until 9:00 p.m. to field questions when students get stuck on evening homework. With such extra supports, KIPP students are held to high academic standards – no exceptions, no excuses.

Commitment to the demanding program is essential – from students, teachers and parents. As public charter schools, KIPP schools are free-of-charge and open to all children; but every student arrives there by choice. That choice enables KIPP to require parents and children to sign a “Commitment to Excellence” to the school and to each other, promising to put in the time and effort required for success. Parents promise to keep their children on track, checking homework every night and maintaining a strong connection with the school. Children pledge to do their school work and homework.

Discipline is another key element of the KIPP strategy. When students don’t complete their homework or misbehave, they find themselves “on the bench,” a form of discipline that separates the child from the rest of the class but keeps the student in school and on task. Children who behave well personally and academically throughout the year are rewarded at year's end with a fun field trip, among other benefits.

In 2000, a $15 million grant from GAP Inc., launched the KIPP Foundation, dedicated to developing new KIPP schools and training its teachers. There are now 38 KIPP schools in 17 states, teaching more than 6,000 students; the system is adding 10 new high schools to carry forward its middle school graduates. Efforts are paying off: achievement is up and more children are college-bound. KIPP students who took the Stanford 10 exam increased their scores by 29% in mathematics; 22% in reading; and 20% in language in just one year. In 2004, 85% of KIPP alumni who were seniors in high school were accepted to a university or college.

What you’ll see at a KIPP school:

  • More time on task: Students are in school from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. They also attend school on Saturdays and put in an extra three and a half weeks in the summer, along with a few hours of homework every night. KIPP students spend 67% more time in class than other public school kids, and the effort pays off.
  • Lively chanting: KIPP’s routine includes many motivational and educational chants and songs. You will hear kids chanting their multiplication tables, singing “you’ve gotta read, baby, read,” and much more.
  • Discipline: KIPP students are like a “team.” But when a child is disruptive or hasn’t done their homework, instead of a visit to the principal’s office or a suspension they are “benched”. This form of discipline keeps students in class, doing their work and fully participating, but kept apart from their classmates on a bench or chair.
  • Homework: Students typically have two hours of homework a night, according to teachers; but some new students contend they spend twice as much time until they get used to the KIPP workload. When students arrive at school in the morning, they start with a silent breakfast doing “morning work” to pick up from their homework. They are also assigned homework over vacation.

Contact Information

KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program)
National Office: 345 Spear St, Suite 510, San Francisco CA 94105
Contact: Steve Mancini,
415-399-1556; fax/415-348-0588

Some Research Articles and Evaluations

“Focus on Results: An Academic Impact Analysis of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP),” (2005), Educational Policy Institute
Findings from this study of 5th graders at 24 KIPP schools show that they posted substantially greater academic gains on the Stanford Achievement Test than what is considered normal. According to the authors, the data suggests that these schools are doing something “right” and warrant further research. (PDF - Adobe Reader Required)

"Evaluating Success: KIPP Educational Program Evaluation,” (2002), by Harold Doran and Darrel Drury, New American Schools
This report, done by the Education Performance Network at New American Schools, presents the findings of an independent evaluation of three new KIPP charter schools. The primary purpose of this analysis was to determine whether or not these schools, in their first year of operation, were able to replicate the academic success of the two original KIPP schools in Houston and New York.

“Analysis of Year 2 (2003-2004): Student Achievement Outcomes for the Memphis KIPP Diamond Academy,” (2005), by Steven M. Ross and Brenda McSparrin Gallagher, Center for Research in Educational Policy,
University of Memphis

In this paper, data are presented for KIPP: Diamond Academy, located in a large, high poverty urban district in Memphis, Tennessee. The authors conclude that the results clearly suggest positive effects in Year 2 of the KIPP Diamond Academy, especially in view of the doubling of school size and special unanticipated challenges faced during the year. (PDF - Adobe Reader Required)

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