By Richard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO
Last year at this time I took a moment to share with you what I believed to be KIPP’s most significant highlights from 2011. As this year comes to a close, I find myself once again with so much to acknowledge and so much for which to be thankful. In keeping with tradition, I am honored to share eight highlights from 2012.
#1 – This fall, more than 3,000 KIPPsters headed off to college.
Just five years ago, there were 350 KIPP alumni enrolled in college. Today, that number has grown to more than 3,000 and by 2015, over 10,000 KIPPsters will have enrolled.
#2 – We opened our 125th school this year and today serve more than 41,000 children.
In a little more than a decade, the KIPP network has grown from two schools to 125 schools that collectively serve more than 41,000 students. In less than eight months, our current class of founding school leaders will expand our network to more than 140 schools. At this rate of growth, we expect to serve well more than 60,000 children by the fall of 2015.
We now have 21 schools in Houston, 10 in Washington, D.C., 9 in New Orleans and New York City, 7 in Los Angeles, Austin, and the Bay Area, and 6 in Atlanta. And, as a result of recent policy changes, are now able to create paths for growth in Massachusetts, Chicago, Nashville and Memphis.
#3 – We are continuing to demonstrate that it is absolutely possible to create high performing schools in both urban and rural communities.
The story of rural education inequity is often overlooked in the broader reform movement, but our schools and students in our two rural regions, the Arkansas Delta and Gaston, North Carolina, are showing us what is possible.
In Arkansas, the KIPP team busses more than 1,000 miles a day to ensure that nearly 1,200 students in the Delta have the opportunity to pursue an excellent education. In counties with some of the lowest college completion rates in the country, KIPP students ride busses that proudly carry the message of our mission, “Next Stop: College.” As a result of KIPP Delta’s commitment to excellence, KIPP Delta Collegiate High School was recently named the #2 high school in the state of Arkansas by US News and World Report.
In Gaston, a committed group of teachers and families have worked tirelessly over the past decade to transform 27 acres of soybeans and peanuts into a campus dedicated to putting students on a path to college. In the summer of 2012, KIPP Gaston realized a long-held vision by opening a new elementary school. In doing so, Gaston will now be able to serve students year after year from kindergarten through the end of high school.
#4 – Our character work took center stage with the publication of Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed.
Grit. Zest. Self-control. Optimism. Gratitude. Social intelligence. Curiosity. Ever since our founding, all of us at KIPP have made the case that character development matters as much as academics, maybe even more. This year, new research is beginning to confirm our work. In his book How Children Succeed, New York Times Magazine writer Paul Tough argues that character may have more to do with student success than simply IQ. Moreover, Tough writes that character can be taught and describes how this knowledge can help students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, overcome obstacles and succeed in life. The book prominently features KIPP NYC’s groundbreaking efforts. You can learn more by reading an excerpt of Tough’s book or reading about KIPP’s approach to character.
#5 – Our KIPPSters continue to inspire us outside the walls of the classroom with their co-curricular pursuits and achievements.
When people think of KIPP, they often think of more time in school and focus on results. Beyond academics, however, our extended day and year enable our teachers and leaders to expose students to tremendous co-curricular opportunities. In 2012, our students achieved co-curricular successes beyond the classroom walls at levels we’ve never seen before.
This summer, more than 300 students from nine different KIPP performing arts groups traveled to Orlando to perform at the KIPP School Summit. Day after day, these KIPPsters brought the house down with their talents and reminded us all what is possible through hard work and dedication. Anchored by the celebrated 180-piece KIPP NYC Academy String and Rhythm Orchestra, the Gala lineup featured several amazing performances by KIPP Empower, KIPP Academy Nashville, and KIPP Academy Lynn.
In sports, the hard work of our KIPP athletes and coaches paid off. Some highlights include:
– The KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate girls’ basketball team won their league tournament this year.
– Teams from KIPP Pride High in North Carolina were the 2012 Track and Softball Conference Champions. KIPP Pride High Senior Adam Pope earned Male Conference Athlete of the Year for the Roanoke Valley Area while Kadarius Goode was named football defensive player of the year in the Roanoke Valley Area.
– The KIPP King Collegiate boys soccer team took home their league championship.
Students at KIPP LA Prep (a middle school!) trained for and ran the LA marathon.
Across the network, stories of our KIPP alumni pursuing their passions and sharing their talents continued to inspire us. For example:
– In Washington, DC, Rayvon Clark, a KIPP KEY Academy alumnus, has been selected as the Student Representative to the D.C. State Board of Education.
– Alex Newell, a member of KIPP Academy Lynn’s first graduating class, beat out more than 34,000 applicants on The Glee Project to earn a cameo spot on FOX’s hit show, Glee.
– KIPP LA alumnus, Rahim Cassell, made his collegiate football debut at the University of Oregon.
#6 – We trained leaders from 27 school districts and charter school organizations that serve over 3 million children every day.
This year, with the help of our Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education and matching grant partners, we launched the KIPP Leadership Design Fellowship. This eight-month program aimed to share KIPP’s leadership development practices – how we find, train and develop outstanding principals – with administrators of public school districts and charter school systems, and leadership training organizations. With 27 organizations represented in our inaugural cohort, KLDF participants met for three multi-day, in-person summits, each focused on different aspects of school leadership. Learn more about the professional development and collaboration taking place at KLDF in this blog post. And if you are interested, apply for our second KLDF cohort.
#7 – We continue to honor our tradition of innovation.
At KIPP, we believe we will learn more, faster, for the betterment of the kids we serve, and also for the betterment of kids whom we will never serve, by supporting innovation and creating opportunities for sharing. Our model empowers our teachers and leaders to innovate in the classroom to develop their students’ academic skills and character, while at the same time leveraging our national scale.
This year, in light of the opportunities presented by emerging instructional technologies, we were excited to continue to support our network’s growing interest in piloting innovative blended learning strategies. Across our network, more and more schools and regions are thoughtfully integrating technology into the classroom to create more personalized learning experiences for students. And, this fall we opened two new schools, KIPP Create in Chicago and KIPP Washington Heights in New York City, that are intentionally integrating technology into many aspects of their teaching and learning. These two schools, along with other KIPP schools that are leveraging instructional technology, have learned from the pioneering work of KIPP Empower in Los Angeles. You can read more about KIPP Empower’s innovative work in the recently released Michael and Susan Dell Foundation Case Study.
Beyond technology, we saw other innovative strategies begin to take hold across our network. In Texas, KIPP Houston’s unique partnership with YES Prep and the Spring Branch Independent School District is proving to be a powerful partnership and an example of how charters and districts can work together for students. In the District of Columbia, KIPP DC’s unique Capital Teaching Residency program is quickly becoming a model for others, demonstrating how regions can build a deep pipeline of highly qualified teacher candidates and train them on-the-job alongside mentor teachers.
#8 – We are pioneering new strategies to support students to and through college.
One of our most innovative areas of investment today involves our efforts to support our graduates to and through college. Today, we are building out our K-12 systems across the country, making it possible for more children in more communities to attend a great public school year after year. We are building the capacity of our KIPP Through College programs that deliver day-to-day, on-the-ground advising and support to KIPPsters starting in middle school. And, over the past year we created unique partnerships with colleges and universities nationwide.
Our College Partnerships Initiative aims to identify higher education institutions committed to serving KIPPsters well, cluster KIPPsters at these institutions, and strengthen the supports these campuses offer to ensure our students are persisting and earning degrees at the highest rates possible. In just one year, we have achieved a major milestone by creating formal partnerships with 20 colleges committed to recruiting and supporting KIPPsters. You can also read more about these efforts in this recently published Washington Post article.
To the KIPP Foundation board: thank you.
To our support staff, regional leadership teams, local board members and KIPP Foundation staff, thank you. You absolutely represent the very best in America. At a time when so many have doubts about the future of our nation, your relentless, can-do attitude and commitment to delivering on promises stands out more than ever.
To our 125 amazing school leaders, thank you. Thank you for your willingness to lead school communities where character matters as much as academics, perhaps even more. Thank you for walking the walk, and not just talking the talk. Thank you for accepting and embracing the absolutely awesome responsibility that is school leadership.
And to our more than 2,500 teachers, who truly make this all possible, thank you. In the end, all is made possible by your efforts.
To our students and their families, thank you. When you wake up and head out to school an hour earlier than your friends and neighbors, and return home from school later; when you work harder than others think makes sense, and care more about your KIPP teammates than others think is wise – you inspire each and every one of us to do more.
Last, but not least, to all those who support the KIPP Foundation and KIPP Schools, thank you.
As we all reflect on what has unfolded across our country and the world this year – including the recent tragedy in Connecticut – I try to remind myself that so much of what we do comes back to the simplest of thoughts, the most basic of all beliefs – promises to children should be sacred.
We wish you a very happy holiday season.