Friday, August 02, 2013

KIPP School Summit

I’M FIRED UP! I got back this afternoon from the KIPP School Summit (KSS) in Las Vegas and, though I’m already the biggest KIPP junkie on the planet, I’m even more fired up about KIPP! It is the most remarkable organization, filled with the most incredible people, that I have ever encountered in my life – by far. It is now 141 schools with 50,000 students in 20 states and the District of Columbia (here’s a map).

KSS is a week where 3,500 KIPP teachers, school leaders, staff, board members, and supporters come together for a week of professional development and celebration. As you can see from my pictures and videos below, there were so many highlights, including great speeches by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Chris Christie. Also, at the dinner on Wed. night, every KIPP alum who was at KSS – dozens of them (see the second- and third-to-last photos below) – introduced themselves and shared some brief thoughts. It was incredibly inspiring. One young man said his mom and dad were from families with 8 and 10 children, respectively, so he has 50 (!) cousins – and he’s the only one to earn a college degree, thanks to KIPP. And he’s now a science teacher at a KIPP school in Houston. (This reflects one of the most exciting trends at KIPP: LOTS of our college grads are coming back to work at KIPP – often at the very schools where they were once students!)

But it wasn’t just a week of self-congratulation. In fact, one of the reasons I admire KIPP so much is that the organization keeps it very real, focusing primarily not on its successes (of which there are many), but the areas that need improvement. Everyone I’ve met in the organization is always asking, “How can we serve our kids better and make sure we’re delivering on the promises we make to every KIPPster?” The people I know at KIPP feel intense, personal pain knowing that we’ve failed thousands of KIPPsters over the years – the ones who drop out of KIPP before graduating, and the even greater number who do graduate from one of our schools, yet fail to earn a college degree. And never once have I heard someone from KIPP make excuses about bad students or bad parents or the terrible life situations many of our students suffer from that derail them.

Let’s take attrition, for example. Some of KIPPs critics (nearly all of whom, I’ve found, have never once visited a KIPP school – that says it all, doesn’t it?) have raised a stink about the fact that some of KIPP’s schools have student turnover that’s higher than peer schools. This is a huge issue for the charter movement in general and, I regret to say, a fair amount of it is legitimate. Far too many schools – even the best ones – engage in various techniques to serve less than their fair share of the toughest-to-educate students (either on the intake, so they never enroll, or later by “counseling” them out). I know why they do it – certain students can suck up disproportionate time and money and drag down a school’s test scores – but playing these games to serve as few of these students as possible is wrong and schools shouldn’t do it.

KIPP is one of the best actors in the charter movement on this issue – but still, at some of our schools, high attrition is a problem. Rather than trying to hide this, however, KIPP is addressing it head on and publicly (see this article in the Washington Post, for example). And KIPP continues to address it internally as well. On Wednesday at KSS, there was a session with all KIPP educators, led by Richard, Mike and Dave, about attrition and the message was clear: this is a critically important issue and every KIPP school needs to make sure it’s serving its fair share of the most challenging students.

At the Gala and Award Ceremony that closed out KSS, this 5-minute video was shown for the first time. It is AMAZING – totally inspiring. I’ve also posted these other videos from the gala 

· The KIPP AMP (Brooklyn) Legacy Jazz Ensemble performed

· The KIPP Academy Nashville Performance Choir sang beautifully 

· Every KIPP principal who has served six years or more was honored. Here’s KIPP Rise (Newark) Principal Drew Martin receiving his award

· 11 teachers won Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Awards. Here’s KIPP TEAM’s (Newark) Ali Nagle presenting Daniel Sonnier with the award.

· David Levin presented Prof. Angela Duckworth with the Beyond Z Award

· KIPP CEO Richard Barth presented legendary venture capitalist Arthur Rock and his wife Toni Rembe with the Giving Tree Award

· Capping the evening, the singer Estelle performed

Here are some of my photos from KSS.   

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