KIPP: A Model for Achieving, and Maintaining, Success

Photo: Invision for The Broad Foundation  

A recent article from the New York Post inspired us with its message resonating from the hallways of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools. KIPP offers free, open enrollment public schools in historically underserved communities, and has amassed positive results in preparing students for success in college and life. In fact, the article notes that more than 93 percent of KIPP students have gone on to graduate high school and more than 83 percent have attended college.

For most schools in this demographic, these would be banner numbers worthy of accolades. But instead of merely celebrating the upward trajectory of these results, the directors at KIPP have identified areas where they could do better, and have mobilized resources to help attain their goals. When KIPP was dissatisfied with its college students’ graduation rates, it began training high school students for the college experience by providing them with more independence in their studies and partnering with universities to provide financial support and mentoring.

KIPP’s college completion numbers show marked improvement: “For students who finished 8th grade at a KIPP school 10 or more years ago, 44 percent have earned four-year college degrees. By comparison, the average for all Americans under age 30 is 29 percent, and the average for students from the nation’s lowest-income families is only 8 percent.”

KIPP balances a confidence about what works with an honest assessment of what can be bettered, leveraged, improved, and achieved. This seems to be its formula for success – one that clearly is working. The Program’s “five pillars” represent KIPP’s key operating principles that permeate its curricula and staff:

High expectations – Clearly defined and measurable high expectations for academic achievement and conduct • Choice and commitment – No one is assigned or forced to attend a KIPP school • More time – Providing an extended school day, week, and year • Power to lead – Principals have control over their budget and personnel • Focus on results – Relentless focus on high student performance

We believe there is an additional operating pillar for KIPP: Resisting complacency amidst success. This is a value that KIPP has clearly demonstrated, and one that we greatly admire and strive to attain ourselves at the Miles Foundation. We believe it serves as a critical building block to growth, as well as to continued progress and meaningful achievement.

We would ask KIPP to take a bow and be recognized for its many accomplishments to date, but we know that its leadership team is too busy focusing on ways to improve an already effective system.

So, to that, we say, kudos to KIPP, for developing a model that we can learn from, and for continuing to generate inspiration and motivation from its success.