Why TSA Needs a Lesson in Classroom Management

By Dave Levin, KIPP Co-Founder

Why is my two ounce bottle of Purell a threat to national security at the Orlando airport but not at LaGuardia?

This was the question I found myself pondering yet again as I traveled home from a talk I had given on the KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching (KFET) and character. For the record, Purell is also a threat in Little Rock, Aspen, and Columbus as well. Or to make matters even worse, it is some of the times. But, it is never a threat in LA, Chicago, Houston, LaGuardia, or Newark.

This type of variable enforcement is just one of the reasons I find air travel so infuriating. Either Purell is a threat or it isn’t. Either I should have to take it out of my bag every time or never. What do I end up doing? I end up never taking out the two ounces of Purell – partly out of confusion and partly out of some misplaced (and slightly mischievous) curiosity to see what will happen. I know it’s wrong, but still…and hey, it’s not even three ounces…

Welcome to the experience of kids in school (and quite frankly often at home).

This is the concept behind the following classroom culture behavior in KFET, known as “100%”:

Implements a classroom behavior management plan with the goal of 100% of the students meeting 100% of the expectations 100% of the time. (KFET – Classroom culture – Management and Discipline).

Obviously, a ton goes into making 100% possible, including building relationships, being simultaneously warm and demanding, and differentiating effectively.  For more on these ideas, check out the ‘Building Relationships,’ ‘Expectations,’ and ‘Differentiating’ sections in KFET.

Variable enforcement of expectations is one of the things that makes growing up so challenging for kids. This is both true within our own classrooms as well as from class to class. Either tracking the speaker is expected 100% of the time or it’s not. If it’s wrong when I do it sometimes but not others, it makes the times it’s wrong that much more maddening. After all, not only am I now getting in trouble, I’m also frustrated because I don’t know what is expected of me. Plus, there are a whole lot of kids like me who will start not doing it just to see what is going to happen.

So, come on TSA, make up your mind – is Purell a threat or not?

One love,



Learn more about the KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching >

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