Making Schools Work with Hederick Smith

Success For All Comer School
Development Program
KIPP High Schools That Work

Mike Feinberg and Hedrick Smith

KIPP co-founder, Mike Feinberg, left, and Hedrick Smith observe a class at KIPP 3D Academy.

school by school reform

Houston, Texas

Inner city Houston is very poor with a large minority population. Most people work at minimum wage jobs, struggling to make ends meet. Crime is rampant in some areas, with gang activity and drug use a reality in many communities.

Principal Dan Caesar founded KIPP 3D Academy in August 2001 in Northeast Houston, the oldest and poorest section of the city. Caesar's goal was to give inner city kids a chance at an excellent education. With the median household income at approximately $20,000 per year, most children at KIPP 3D live in poverty. The surrounding neighborhood is 66% African American, 32% Hispanic. As a charter public school in the Houston Independent School District, KIPP 3D is free-of-charge and open to all students in fifth through eighth grade, but students and their parents have to choose to come and they must commit to KIPP's demands on students and families.

As a middle school with the goal of sending its graduates toward college, KIPP 3D Academy is rigorous and intense. Students put in longer than usual schools days and even attend school on Saturday and for part of the summer. Several hours of homework per night is the norm. When asked why kids come to KIPP 3D, Caesar says “it's all about heart.” Kids who want to put their hearts and energies into a better future choose to come to KIPP. Teachers, too, must also have a big heart and a willingness to work hard; they are so committed that they make themselves available by phone until 9:00 p.m. every evening for any homework questions or personal issues.

Ultimately, everyone's hard work reaps impressive results. KIPP 3D students enter school in fifth grade performing one to two grade levels behind the average Houston fifth graders in reading and math. But by sixth grade, after only one year at KIPP, these students are up to grade and starting to outperform other students in Northeast Houston by a significant margin. Since Spring 2002, the school's current eighth graders have moved from the 43rd to the 51st percentile in reading, from the 71st to the 82nd percentile in math, and from the 53rd to the 62nd percentile in language, as measured by the Stanford 10, a nationally administered normative test.

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