Friday, April 13, 2012

KIPP Empower Academy Elementary school in LA

I visited KIPP Empower Academy elementary school in LA yesterday and met the school's Founding Principal Mike Kerr.  It's the first blended learning KIPP school, so I was especially eager to see it.  It's in its second year with kindergarteners and first graders – four classes of 28 students in each grade – growing to K-4.

There's a very interesting story about how this school came to adopt blended learning that I think will become increasingly common in these times of tight budgets and education funding cuts:

This was not originally going to be a blended learning school, but just before the school opened, charter school funding was slashed in California, forcing Kerr to substantially increase class sizes to 28 students.  Kerr felt that this would be unmanageable for many subject areas, so he adopted blended learning, which allows half the students to work on computers, overseen by a junior teacher (typically a first- or second-year TFA corps member, who can roam between two classrooms if needed), while the senior teacher does a lesson with a much smaller group of 14 students (see pics 4-6 below).

The school is off to a great start, so the blended learning appears to be working, but there's still a lot of experimentation and learning going on, both at this school and across the KIPP network (KIPP NY is launching a new blended learning school this August, and KIPP Newark is experimenting in this area as well).

Below are pics from my visit (which are also posted at:  The last three pics and a video I posted at are of the KIPP Empower first graders practicing their break dancing and stepping in preparation for a show at the KIPP School Summit in Orlando in August – I can't wait to see it!  They are being taught by TFAers Justin Myles and Hoang Pham (formerly a professional break dancer) – you can see them in the video.

The school needs to raise funds for these 21 students to go to Orlando, so please support them by making an online donation and/or attending a fundraiser in LA on Saturday, May 19th (I just donated $100).  Here's Mike Kerr with the details:

KIPP Empower Academy First Graders Got Talent! …And Need Your Help 

Do you want to help 21 talented six year-olds have the experience of a lifetime? Our first grade group of steppers and break dancers were selected to perform before 2,500 people at the KIPP School Summit in Orlando, FL, this August. However, we need your help to get them there. With your support, we can fund their air travel and accommodations and help make this an experience they won't soon forget! 

As you will see from the video, our dance group, "StepUP --- BreakDOWN," has got rhythm and skill. Not to mention, they are truly adorable. While they have worked hard to master their dance steps, these students from KIPP Empower Academy (KEA) also work incredibly hard in the classroom so they can go to college. In fact, every member of our dance group has had to maintain good grades and demonstrate positive character at our South-Central Los Angeles elementary school in order to remain on our team. 

We are so proud of them and think you will be too. Your support would provide our deserving students with a tremendous learning experience—it will be their first time on a plane—and will give them an opportunity to show people from all over the nation that with hard work and perseverance, they can do anything… and they can do it with style!


Here is the link to watch their video, learn more, and make a contribution:


KIPP Empower Academy Talent Show


We are also raising money for our students by hosting a talent show at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2012.  The show will take place at St. Mary's Academy, 701 Grace Avenue in Inglewood, CA.  We will feature performances from our students' families, other KIPP LA schools, and professional break dancers from along the West Coast.  This will serve as not only a fundraiser, but also a dress rehearsal for our students so that they can have practice performing before a large crowd.


We will hold a raffle at this event, as well.  Thus far, we have secured two iPads for our raffle.  Admission is $10 per adult, $5 per child, or a total of $20 per family.


We cannot wait for you to share this event with the KIPP Empower Academy team and family.


The first-grade building (the regular public school Empower shares the school with is on the left)


The kindergarten building


A regular kindergarten classroom


A blended learning classroom – a regular science lesson for half the class is taking place on the right, and the other half of the class is on the computers on the left



Each student is doing something different, based on their level


First graders practicing break dancing and stepping in preparation for a show at the KIPP School Summit in Orlando in August – I can't wait to see it!




My wife, my two younger daughters and me with Founding Principal Mike Kerr


 Subscribe in a reader