Questions from the Community (Click to expand)
What is a charter school?
Charter schools are free, open-enrollment public schools of choice. The "charter" establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.
Massachusetts charter schools report to the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and are required to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they allow increased autonomy in return for this accountability.
What grades does KIPP Massachusetts serve?
KIPP Massachusetts currently serves 631 students in grades 5 – 10 at 3 schools in Lynn and Boston. By the year 2019, we will serve 2,100 students at 5 schools in Lynn and Boston.
Is my child eligible to enroll?
KIPP Massachusetts serves both the city of Lynn and the city of Boston.
We do not select or deny admissions on the basis of prior academic or behavioral record, race, creed, class, handicap, or any other factor.
Our students, like all charter school students in MA, are selected by blind lottery. If your child is a current 4th grader or a current 8th grader and lives in the city of Lynn or Boston, he or she is eligible for the lottery. If not selected in the random lottery, he/she may be placed on the waiting list.
To learn more, or to enroll your child in the lottery click HERE
How are KIPP Massachusetts schools funded?
We receive funding from three sources: State funds, Federal funds, and Private funds. The amount of funding received through state and local grants is the same amount the public school system receives. It is based on a per-pupil allocation established by the state government. Because we offer more time and resources than public schools do, KIPP Massachusetts must raise additional money through private donations.
Our financial plan shows that all 5 of our schools will be 95% sustainable on public funding when at full enrollment.
Do charter schools take money from district public schools?
Charter schools are public schools. All mainstream public schools receive state and federal funding based on a per-student calculation. When a child leaves for a charter school the money follows that child. Charter schools do not take money from public schools; they provide new educational alternatives within the public school system using public dollars.
How can I get involved?
What is your plan for growth?
By 2020 KIPP:MA will serve 2,500 students in five schools in Boston and Lynn. We will be on track towards 75 percent college graduation for the class of 2021. Our existing schools will be 100% sustainable on public funding, and we will be ready to kick off our next phase of getting bigger and better.
What do you mean you are sustainable on public funds?
When our schools reach full size, public revenue covers our operating expenses. At scale, our model is sustainable because we have a lean regional office and strong school cultures that prioritize spending on kids and teachers and thrift elsewhere. An injection of growth capital is required to open new KIPP schools and enable us to serve 2,500 students by 2020. We are in the quiet phase of a $10M/4 year Growth Capital Campaign through which we have raised $5.4M (as of April 2013). Growth capital is necessary to scale leadership capacity, acquire facilities, and other start up costs until each school is fully enrolled.
How does KIPP partner with districts?
Across the country, KIPP has developed some very positive relationships with districts and other charters. In Houston, Texas, KIPP shares facilities with some traditional district schools and the Principals collaborate regularly. In New Orleans, KIPP participates in a common enrollment process in the Recover School District. Locally we are part of the Boston Charter Compact which hopes to create positive working relationships between charters and districts.
What is the status of the charter seat cap lift? What can we do to help?
The cap lift goes before a legislative committee on May 7th. Please write your legislator in support of the Holmes/Feingold bill. If you know a legislator personally, bring them to visit our schools.
What is the relationship between KIPP:MA and The KIPP Foundation?
KIPP Massachusetts is an independent entity with its own Governing Board. We function in many ways as a franchise of the KIPP brand. KIPP is unique amongs large charter management organizations in the degree of autonomy for individual KIPP regions to adapt to their communities. The KIPP Foundation drives national leadership development, knowledge sharing, and national advocacy efforts. However, they do not provide any funding to the KIPP regions other than the occasional pass-through grant.
How do you teach grit? How do you measure it?
We develop character strengths in four ways:
I. Name it.
KIPP NYC created a list of observable indicators for each of the character strengths. We share these with our students and spend time making sure kids are clear about which behaviors show grit (or any of the eight character strengths) and which do not.
II. Model it.
As adults, we are all teachers, and the entire KIPP:MA staff has to demonstrate both character strength and growth. We have transparent, regular conversations with kids about our own character successes and struggles.
III. Find and integrate it.
There are endless opportunities to teach grit in our academic curriculum, our co-curriculars, and our field lessons. Our teachers create dual-purpose lesson plans that find opportunities to reinforce character through academic content. For instance, when introducing a challenging math problem a teacher will say, “You will have a chance to demonstrate grit today, because you will get frustrated because the answer requires many steps,” or an English teacher asks, “How does Atticus demonstrate grit in the chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird we just read?” This regular connection between the academic lessons and the character lessons build stronger connections for our kids. In addition to classroom practices, we design our schools so kids have access to multiple experiences that develop character strengths. For instance, our sixth grade students spend a large chunk of their end of year field lesson hiking in Maine; the steep climbs and blisters are a living metaphor for the effort it takes to go to and through college. For the same reason, we see co-curriculars in athletics and fine arts as “must have” elements of great schools. Excellent arts and sports instruction helps kids feel the positive effect of grit when they make the starting line-up after struggling in practice or when the tenth draft of their painting is beautiful.
IV. Track it.
We provide regular feedback to kids and parents on character development through our paycheck system. We celebrate not only those kids who consistently demonstrate a character strength but those who show the greatest improvement. We also make a point to celebrate a show of strength even when a child is struggling another area. For instance, Jose wins the grit award for second quarter even though zest is a major area of growth. We built off the great work of KIPP:NYC. We created a list of observable indicators for each of the character strengths we measure; check them out below. This is not meant to be a complete list of everything you need in the world to be a good person. These are the character strengths that most directly correlate with college success. We teach these indicators to the kids and then track them in our weekly “paycheck” or “merit” systems. Measurement helps kids and adults develop growth mindset about their character strengths. They see that they can improve their grit or self-control with effective effort. In addition to these weekly measurements, kids and teachers regularly evaluate themselves and identify their strengths and opportunities to get better.
What are KIPPsters most worried about in college?
Our kids worry a lot about money. Many families work incredibly hard to provide for their children and often don’t provide a complete picture of their struggle. During the financial aid process, many KIPPsters get a much deeper sense of what their family does and does not have. This scenario has pushed us to hold more regular conversations about finances early in kids’ KIPP journey. Our kids worry about failure. First generation college-bound KIPPsters carry tremendous expectations from their families, their school, and themselves. They don’t want to disappoint anyone. Sometimes this causes kids to hide their challenges from their family and their friends. Our kids worry about turning their backs on their families and communities. Something as simple as spending break with a roommate can feel like a betrayal of family and friends.
How do you maintain strong relationships with families and students as you grow into a larger network?
We believe schools are the unit of change, and as we grow as a network, each school has to have systems and practices that engage students and their families and build strong bonds. One example of this is the advisory system at all three schools. Kids meet regularly in small groups with a teacher. These advisory sessions look very different from the standard classroom, but they have a clear aim as well: to ensure every child has a strong relationship to an adult at the school and to other kids. Our Lynn middle school has increased its enrollment significantly over the past few years, but kids and parents report even higher levels of satisfaction and connection in a variety of different surveys.
How does KIPP plan to grow in order to create more opportunities for more deserving students?
We recognize the great needs in a number of communities across our state. Our strategic plan is focused on K-12 schools in Lynn and Boston until 2020, at which point we will consider whether to continue growing deeper or wider. In the interim, we have provided training and shared resources with other schools.
Is college graduation still a valid goal?
College graduates earn more and have better metrics for health and happiness according to almost every possible measure. We believe that this is the absolute right goal and focus for our schools. At the same time, we want to increase our kids’ knowledge of careers and the changing economy so they make reasoned decisions about higher education including their majors and other training.
We want all our kids even those for whom college is not the right fit to believe two things:
A. The choice is theirs. No one selected them out of a college track. They chose another career and life path that they are passionate about and one that will lead them to independence.
B. Choosing to train for a career or seek vocational education does not mean that literature, science, math, history and the arts are not part of their life and experiences. Every kid in our school, Harvard bound or opening their own garage should thrill at ideas of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” or the marvelous design of the circulatory system.
Who follows KIPP students once they leave for college?
Our KIPP Through College (KTC) department consists of four full-time staff members and will grow to ten by the time we reach scale in our current plan. Each staff member has a caseload of KIPP alumni who they communicate with and track progress regularly. The KTC staff offers financial aid advice to alumni and their families as well as socio-emotional support to ensure a smooth transition from high school to college or career. Clustering our alumni at supportive institutions is another part of the strategy to improve college graduation outcomes. Nationally, KIPP has partnered with over 20 colleges who have pledged to support KIPP’s mission of raising the college graduation rates of students from underserved areas.
What about kicking out kids?
We work incredibly hard to keep all our kids and don’t expel unless there is a threat to the health and safety of the school. We provide extensive counseling and support for kids with social and emotional challenges while maintaining high expectations. As a result of these and other efforts, we have reduced our attrition to four percent. The difference between four percent attrition and eight percent may seem minor but over the life of a school this means hundreds of additional children continue to receive a KIPP education.
Where does KIPP find its School Leaders?
The bulk of our leaders will be developed internally. In addition to our own coaching and development, internal leaders go through several stages of KIPP National Leadership Training starting with Teacher Leader (for full time classroom teachers interested in leadership) through training for Vice-Principals and Deans into the Fisher Fellowship (a yearlong training program for KIPP leaders who will found new schools). We are intent on building a strong bench of both future founders and successor leaders.
How did you improve teacher retention? What are the biggest challenges in motivating and developing teachers?
We attract and select driven, mission-motivated staff. We improved teacher retention significantly without changing our pay scale or the long hours and challenging expectations. This improvement was the result of increasing our coaching and support for all staff, particularly teachers. Coaches meet with teachers weekly and observe their classrooms 20-30 times a year. As a result of this, teachers felt more success in the classroom and retention increased dramatically. We have retained many teachers and leaders even as they start families, something that used to be seen as impossible in our movement. There’s room for growth as we figure out how to provide flexibility for working parents and teach teachers to be more effective and efficient in their planning.