Saturday, November 16, 2013

Notes from KIPP Middle School Visit

KIPP Academy: Bronx
Grades 5-8
One Sentence Take Away: “Do YOU remain calm even when criticized or bothered?”

Set amongst rows of apartment high rises in the Bronx, KIPP Academy is the original New York City KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) school. There are now 10 KIPP schools in NYC and 141 nationwide. This middle school currently serves about 270 students in grades 5-8. In educational circles, KIPP is frequently admired, discussed, debated and sometimes criticized as a model for education. Overall, co-founders David Levin and Mike Feinberg, and the dedicated staff have been extremely successful in helping underprivileged youth in urban poverty achieve academic success at a impressive rate. KIPP is also one of the most well known models for character education. Their system of schools emphasize character enough to have created the KIPP character report card. Here is a short video from 2011 explaining a little bit about KIPP in general:


My visit to KIPP reminded me of my time at Polaris in West Chicago. Both of these charter middle schools have extremely high expectations for their students and teachers. Both schools work with populations from generational poverty in urban settings. In each of the schools I saw high levels of instruction from energetic teachers. And, in my opinion, both schools have a very strong adult administrative presence. Students are required to be silent in the hallway, walk in lines in the hallway, wear uniforms (or dress clothes), and follow many other fairly strict rules, enforced diligently. In both schools, teachers are in the hallway to walk their students to the next class, and students are expected to wait silently until their next teacher welcomes them into the room. Indirectly, compliance is of very high value. Whether or not that is a worthwhile goal for students can be debated, but there is no denying the positive academic testing track record these schools have, and the corresponding success of getting their students to college. Perhaps with so many students lacking structure outside of school, a highly structured environment is necessary in order to develop effective work habits inside of school.

In any event, the adults were very welcoming, the students were conscientious, and I enjoyed my time there. While I was there, I saw self-control emphasized by a number of administrators and teachers. In one class I visited, test taking strategies were explained in great detail. The teacher strongly encouraged all students to set a minimum of a 5% growth increase for themselves, with an excused homework as a reward for achieving that minimum growth level and 3 excused homework assignments for anyone in the 90th percentile. KIPP's hallmark phrases, "BE NICE. WORK HARD." & "ALL OF US WILL ACHIEVE" were painted in rooms throughout the school. Additional phrases on the walls included, "Do YOU get to work right away?" & "Do YOU show thanks and appreciation?"

1 comment:

  1. Sound like a lot of good work being done, but I wonder at rewarding with excused late work? Something anti-thetical there. However, having said that, I have used little slips of paper that say "One Excused Late Paper." It was a double edged sword. The students who may have had many late papers only had one. The students who likely wouldn't have turned in any late papers - also turned one in late. Love the "Be Nice. Work Hard."

    Another key word I see is "expectations" - I would be interested to know how much time is spent by administrators working with faculty to achieve consistant, high expectations. So many people - individuals - each with his or her own teaching style. I imagine that the "clean sweep" to start such a program (like KIPP) is important and difficult.

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