Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuesday Evening Thoughts by KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth

The following post is a reprint of the Tuesday Evening Thoughts email that KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth sends out on a semi-regular basis.

Happy Tuesday everyone. I hope this finds folks well.

From every possible bit of information I can pick up (yes, I am always looking for tidbits, so feel free to send them my way!) we are off to just a tremendous start to the school year. As everyone reading this knows, strong starts really matter. They matter for the whole feeling that comes out of a school. Strong starts matter to teachers. They matter to families. And they matter, most of all, to kids. As a parent, the last week has been marked by regularly assessing how we feel the start to the year has been for each of our 3 boys. And as elementary school kids, that really comes down to, fundamentally, their whole class dynamics as well as to the individual dynamics that are emerging between each of my sons and their respective teachers. After twenty years in this work, I also know – independent of being a parent – that it is hard to really turn things around later in the year. Possible, but very hard.

So…all this is to say…congratulations to every single one of you who has worked so, so very hard to get your school’s off to a strong beginning of the year. And, I think it is really important to just highlight that the whole idea and commitment to getting ‘better as we get bigger’, truly implies that each new school opening is stronger than our last. This isn’t to say or be confused with the idea that a new KIPP school in its first weeks of existence is better than our strongest mature schools. That wouldn’t be a fair bar…but what is fair to expect of us, in serving our kids, is that all the lessons we learn from each other, all the experiences we are gaining, benefit our newest schools. And that we are truly getting stronger, evidenced by the fact that a new school opening really is a a significant sign of our growing strength as a network.


There is a ton going on in these opening days, and that is true here at the Foundation. Among the highlights:

*School Reviews are Under Way

Yes, believe it or not. We have begun our 2009-2010 school reviews. As a reminder, we carry out New School Support Visits for all first year schools, Leadership Transition school reviews for those schools being led by a new school leader in single sites and emerging regions, and School Reviews for schools in Year 2 and 4 in single sites and emerging regions.

In reflecting upon the importance of strong beginnings to our schools and kids, I am excited that Jeff Rutel and his teams on the New School Site Visits over the past couple of weeks have consistently shared that our newest KIPP schools are off to just that: strong starts.

For our Year 2 and 4 Reviews, over the last year, we have partnered with School Works and have felt incredibly strongly about their ability to help us drive this process forward. Among the most exciting developments is that the school review process itself was refined and revised to align itself fully with the KIPP Healthy Schools framework. What does that all mean, really? It means the folks at the KIPP Foundation are working hard to streamline our approach and ensure we are using one language in our work. It means that when we think about the major components of a healthy school – Leadership and Organizational Systems, Human Capital, Culture and Climate, Teaching and Learning, College Preparatory Supports, and Operations – they are the same components we are looking at with a constructive eye in our reviews.

When I talk about School Reviews, I want to offer a special thank you in advance to all of the sitting school leaders and KIPP Executive Directors who devote their time and energy to helping out their fellow members of the KIPP Team and Family. One of the most powerful elements of our school visits is the fact that our teams include both Fisher Fellows and experienced leaders from KIPP, and that both those being visited and our visitors truly gain from the experience. But, it is a commitment of time, and often time away from families…so Thank You!

*Our First Intersession for our Fisher Fellows

I wanted to pass along the following update from Kelly Wright. As you know, Kelly is the leader of the KIPP Foundation’s Learning Team, and she recently shared….

….Although in many ways it seemed just yesterday that we were finishing up Summer Institute in NYC and KSS in Orlando, the KSLP team is ready for our next round of programming with our Fisher Fellows.

On Monday, September 14th, the Fisher Fellows will meet in Chicago for Intersession One. Since KSS, our Fellows have started Residencies and have been visiting schools across the country, from Los Angeles to Lynn, Massachusetts. During their time in schools, they are observing our fabulous school leaders in action and gaining insight into culture, instruction, and administrative practices that they would like to put in place at their schools. They are also continuing to work on their School Design Plans and their first submission is due on September 30th.

During their week in the Windy City, they will work with a variety of presenters to continue to hone their leadership competencies. They will work with The New Teacher Project on Managing People; Doug Lemov from Uncommon Schools and Jim Warnock from RBT on Instructional Leadership; Mary Ashton and Linda Belans on Self-awareness; and Carrie Hahnel and Danielle Eisenberg on Driving Results. They will also have time to work in their collaborative Learning Teams and, as always, have a little fun together in the evening.

*KIPP English Language Arts Retreat

Yes, the KIPP English Language Arts Retreat is coming our way. It runs from October 16th-17th, in New Orleans. Participants are going to be exposed to the very best ELA practitioners at KIPP, as well as some of the very best from beyond our network. And, to top it off, folks are going to be able to visit and take in all the great work that is going on in our schools in New Orleans. Noel Mullen recently shared that the hotel for this year’s ELA retreat is filling up quickly. To book your room for Thursday and Friday at $139 a night please visit . All content will end by 5pm on Saturday to allow retreat attendees to travel home that evening.

*Alumni Services

I was excited to read the announcement from the Alumni Services Team that went out this week as they launched the application process for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program and the KIPP:S.T.E.P. Summer Program at Deerfield Academy. From day one we push our students to think about college and these early college access programs provide an incredible opportunity for us to put those thoughts into action! I want to encourage each school that has current 7th graders to apply for BOTH programs and to give your students a shot at an experience of a lifetime.

Applications were sent to the High School Placement and School Leaders list serves on Monday, September 14th. The application deadlines are:

· Monday, November 2nd for Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Pre-Selection Program

· Monday, December 7th for KIPP:STEP Summer Program at Deerfield Academy

If you haven't already done so, please designate someone on your team as your school liaison to the Foundation and email your selection to Craig ( or Coral ( We're hoping for 100% participation from the network and want to showcase the talent that we see in our students everyday.

Student Leadership Summit

As hard as it is to believe, the KIPP Student Leadership Summit is just around the corner! It will take place at Westminster Woods, in Occidental, CA from October 8th to the 11th. As many of you know, each year, the KIPP Student Leadership Summit provides an opportunity for two exemplary sixth grade students (one boy and one girl) from each KIPP middle school that has a sixth grade and two exemplary 10th, 11th, or 12th grade students (one boy and one girl) from each KIPP high school that has at least a 10th grade, as well as a chaperone from each middle and high schools, to participate in a weekend of activities designed to further develop leadership and teamwork skills. The KIPPsters who attend the SLS gain knowledge of and have the opportunity to build bonds with their extended team and family from KIPP schools across the nation. After a weekend of creative problem-solving and collaboration, students return to school full of inspiration and ready to make their school a stronger community and feel further empowered to be leaders in everyday situations. And, participating KIPPSters will (during their time at the summit and afterwards) be invited to develop a proposal detailing an idea and plan to address an unmet need in their school community. Proposals will be submitted to Richard Barth by Friday, October 30th From those submitted, four winning proposals will be chosen. For each of the winners, $500 will be sent to the school in the name of the students to support the implementation of the plan.


KIPP out and About

While all this is going on, KIPP is also engaged in the world beyond the walls of our schools. Recently, 4 members of the KIPP Team and Family (Lisa Margosian, Susan Schaeffler, Ryan Hill and Jack Chorowsky) were part of a group of education leaders from the charter school world who met with Arne Duncan. As we all have read, Arne is hoping that many of the best charter school groups in the country will be excited to get involved in school turnarounds. This meeting – which explicitly was not obligating any organization, including KIPP—to commit to any actions, was aimed at helping the Department of Education leadership team to understand what it would take to inspire successful charter leaders to consider this turnaround work. While that group of big KIPPsters were meeting with the DOE on the issue of turnarounds, Kelly Wright was part of a group of folks that met with leaders at the DOE to discuss the importance of investing in leadership development, and most importantly, leveraging what has been proven to work.

I want to be clear: no one should be anxious about us getting into work we really are not ready to do J Rather, I am excited to share these updates just to remind us all of how much our work is appreciated by others, and how much others want us to lend a hand so that we all move closer to the day when all schools are preparing children for success in life.

On that topic of KIPP and the outside world, this week some 37 or 38 big KIPPsters will be attend the Charter School Growth Fund Innovation Conference. Can we say, KIPP is in the house? Very exciting indeed to see what an important part we all play in the larger world of reform.


An Apology

Last, but definitely not least, I want to acknowledge an oversight on my part. I communicate regularly to you all in hopes of doing my part to keep the network up to date on what is going on across the country. This summer I dropped the ball in sharing news with you that I share with you today, several months late. At the end of this past June, we made an official decision that Freedom Academy in Camden, NJ would no longer operate as a KIPP-affiliated school due to the absence a KIPP-approved school leader. As you may know, one year ago, due to administrative certification issues, the State of New Jersey required the Board of Freedom Academy to replace the then existing KIPP School Leader with a school leader who had not participated in the KIPP School Leadership training. We had hoped that by the end of the past school year that a KIPP-approved leader would have been identified and prepared to assume leadership of the school this summer. Regretfully, search efforts by both the Freedom Board and the KIPP Foundation failed to produce such a leader. Although the school no longer operates as a KIPP school, it is continuing to operate with the goal of offering better educational options for the children and families of Camden, New Jersey. While there is no excuse for my delay in sharing this news, I would like to offer our deep gratitude to the staff of Freedom Academy who worked through a tumultuous year and remained dedicated to the children they serve. A good number of the members of the Freedom team have found great opportunities to stay with KIPP in other cities, about which I am very excited.


So, this was a pretty long weekly thoughts. There is a lot going on!

Let’s make this a great rest of the week everyone,



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