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Watch Out Jacksonville – KIPP Is Coming

In September of 2010, a new school will open in Jacksonville. That is too poorly stated. In September an educational system titled KIPP is going to affect a region of Jacksonville, Florida, in such a way that its students

will have a life changing experience and a real opportunity to attend college. In fact, KIPP could RIP the fabric of public education in Jacksonville in half.

I was fortunate enough to hear the story directly from Tom Madjanics, the stellar executive director of KIPP this last week. Stellar because of his outstanding resume and his superb delivery – spoken like a professional speaker.

KIPP stands for Knowledge Is Power Program. It is currently in 82 cities and even “Oprah” has recognized its high achievements. Yes, Oprah has put her stamp of approval on the program. Now over the years I’ve heard educator after educator expound the qualities of new ideas and ways to educate the masses but this is the first “real” idea that may have traction.

WATCH VIDEO:  Great Expectations, KIPP Schools Close the Gap

 Jacksonville is under attack, in fact, the entire country is under attack. This is what we were told by Tom Madjanics. Under privileged students everywhere (those in families earning so little that their children are on federal meal plans at school) are not being educated to their full potential. Displaying a graph that appeared like it had been shot with shotgun birdshot, Tom said that these little dots represented Florida students that were in the group mentioned above and who were failing or performing poorly on standard testing. If a picture is worth a thousand words – this picture was alarming.

KIPP starts a child’s education with one thought, the year that they will go to college. Yes, each incoming student is told to memorize that year and be prepared to state it at any time when questioned. They basically promise that if the KIPP formula is followed that this can actually happen. Now here is the catch. The children and parents have to work for it – and I mean work. Parent and child are required to acknowledge a form titled Commitment to Excellence. KIPP’s core principles are called the Five Pillars of Excellence. They are High Expectations, Choice and Commitment, More Time, Power to Lead and Focus on Results.

Each day starts off at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m. In addition to studies, students are required to have one hour of the arts (music and art) and one hour of physical fitness. And you better have a big book bag. Every night there is three hours of homework. At least the students will be able to play all weekend. WRONG! Each student is required to attend several hours of class on Saturday. Well at least they can play all summer. WRONG! All students are required to attend summer school.

Well, no wonder the poor child (no pun intended) will get educated, who wouldn’t?

One of the most successful bankers in Jacksonville, the late Frank Sherman, used to quote a bible verse to all his friends regularly, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he grows up, he will not deviate from it.” Well, this is the way they should go. Two successful local businessmen have led the way to bring KIPP to Jacksonville, John Baker, former chief executive officer of Florida Rock Industries, and Gary Chartrand,

chairman/chief executive officer of Acosta Inc.

So why is KIPP coming to Jacksonville? Well according to Tom Madjanics, Jacksonville begged them to come here. In fact, we should be proud Jacksonville was selected. Several large cities

in the state had begged and even provided incentives for them to come to their city. Like the Super Bowl or the Olympics, Jacksonville was chosen. In addition, Jacksonville should be proud to have the first and only Kipp

School in the state.

So where will KIPP be built? Actually it is on the old McDuff Jacksonville Kennel Club Dog Track. The same building where millions of people laid down bets over the years is being transformed into an educational facility which when completed will appear like a spaceship from the movie Star Wars. In fact, it will be a glimmer of hope in what has been a disappointing area of educational achievement. And, Howard Korman, President of Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, who donated the building and property, is betting it will work.

As far as the Jacksonville faculty is concerned, the Principal has been hired. All of the teachers will be selected over the next four months to begin their own special KIPP training in July. KIPP teachers are special. First,

they have to agree to work the same hours as the students – 7:30 am until 5:00 pm. That means their work day will probably include two extra hours above that just to be prepared. They also have weekend work and summer work. But, they will receive the highest pay in the city for educators. Well not as much as college professors but it may even be close. They will be compensated for their achievement and their student’s achievement.

So what student would want to do this? According to Tom, plenty. Since KIPP is a charter school, students will be selected by a lottery. He said in a year or two there will be hundreds vying for just a few of the valuable spots in this program. “In other cities, we’ve had waiting lists of 200 attempting to get into just one spot.”

So this is a lot of talk, right? Wrong!

According to KIPP's own reports and independent studies, 90 percent of its students matriculated to college-preparatory high schools. This is amazing since most of KIPP’s 5thGraders enter with math and English skills one or two grades behind their peers.

So who should receive the credit for such a program? The answer is two young Houston inner city teachers by the name of Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg. Their outstanding work was recognized by Doris and Donald Fisher, co-founders of Gap, Inc. and the rest is history. In 2000, the Fishers established a $15 million grant to help bring this program to the masses.

Jacksonville watch out – KIPP is coming - and it is exciting.


Story submitted by: Joseph Miller


6 Responses »

  1. Kipp schools are hardly a model for public education. Students costs are 20% higher than surrounding public schools, children spend many more hours in class than do their public school contemporaries, and teachers spend, according to a recent study by SRI, 65 hours each week either in or preparing for class. Add on to those hours the several hours each evening these teachers must be available for tutoring by telephone.

    Rigorous school value systems cost more than money. Kipp schools suffer a very high dropout rate and high teacher turnover rates. Student dropouts appear to be selective, the poorest performers dropping out a far higher rate than better performing students. High teacher turnovers mean that Kipp schools are constantly recruiting replacements, which is expensive and resource-intensive.

    High dropout rates, high teacher turnover rates and extremely high per student costs are not signs of sustainable or even healthy systems. Politicians would not fund schools at such high costs, taxpayers would balk at higher taxes, parents would be alarmed at high dropout rates and constantly changing classroom teachers.

  2. I am a teacher at a KIPP school, going on my 4th year. I hate that your major argument is money. But let's face it, throwing money at problems definitely helps in solving them.
    Have you ever visited a KIPP school? They are awe-inspiring. That's why I choose to spend 65 hours a week working for KIPP. Because they work and they kids learn.
    Basic motto of KIPP: Work Hard, Be Nice. Be a good student and be a good person.
    KIPP schools are not only a model for public education, but a model for how our country should operate. If we all were working hard and being nice, we wouldn't have all these problems we do, one major problem, being public education. And yet the question remains, have you ever visited a KIPP school? If not, zip it. You have NO idea what you're talking about.

    • Go get em Haley! I work at YES Prep in Houston and have been here for 5 years with no plans of leaving. After having worked in the public schools in New Orleans, working longer hours for students pays off in a way I would never have seen in traditional schools. People should definitely be more informed before arguing a point.

  3. I will have to agree with Haley. I am a KIPP Alumn and now work for KIPP. Seeing how these teachers dedicate themselves to the children, making sure they get the materials they need to succeed is impressive. KIPP took that step forward to make a change in public education and not make it routine. I admire my former teachers and new teachers for making a commitment to ensure that these students climb the mountain to college. Without KIPP i would have never thought about going to college, but it took GANAS to climb that mountain and i am glad i took the road less traveled.

  4. The Kipp model is not scalable. While small communities of teachers dedicated to the model can be assembled, a school system the size of Duval County would not be able to find 5,000 teachers willing to work 65 hours a week for $35K. Taxpayers would not pay the enormous increase in per pupil funding necessary to finance a Kipp school, or 60,000 parents willing to sacrifice vacations and Saturdays.

    Haley hates that money is a central concern. Unfortunately, money is a central concern. If KIPP had to settle for per pupil funding every other public school student gets, the KIPP experience would be substantially thinner and far less inspiring. For those lucky enough to enter a KIPP school and for those who persist I'm sure the experience is just as Marie describes. But a Florida school district created in the KIPP model would require taxpayers to fork over at least a third more in school taxes than they do now. Considering complaints about paying the relatively low rate now required to fund Duval schools, KIPP schools will remain an isolated phenomenon funded by a few dedicated angels.

    • So, lets pretend that this model isn't scalable (despite KIPP having so many successful campuses across the country and other CMOs like YES Prep in Houston are proving that the model can be replicated), isn't it okay that they put enough pressure on the traditional system to clean up their act? For instance, in Houston, YES Prep and KIPP will only serve 30,000 students combined when they are fully grown out. That is a small fraction of Houston's students. HISD serves 250,000 students, 50% drop out, only 10% take the SAT and the average score is about 900. The new superindendent in HISD has publicly said that our model and strategies are not trademarked and he is right! We are happy to see his leadership and be a partner in the fight with him. I dont think KIPP or other CMOs will ever pretend to be the only solution, but what is wrong with providing a college prep education to these kids who would otherwise not get it? This is far beyond isolation and it will take some patience to see that.