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.