The KIPP Academies: Changing the Face of Education

If there is a problem, we look for a solution.
If there is a better way, we find it.
If we need help, we ask.
If a teammate needs help, we give.
– Team always beats individual
– No excuses. No shortcuts.
– Work Hard. Be Nice.

The motto above is typical of what you find on the wall of a KIPP Academy. KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), a forerunner in the public school reform movement, has been sweeping the nation with its against-all-odds-superior results. On Wednesday, Nov. 28th, John Alford (HBS ’01), Northeast Director of Business Development and Stacy Douglas, KIPP Director of Fellowship Recruitment, brought the excitement of the KIPP academies onto the HBS campus.

KIPP Academies
A non-profit corporation, KIPP recruits, selects and trains the best leaders to build outstanding public schools in economically disadvantaged communities across the U.S. Co-founders Michael Feinberg and Dave Levin started the first KIPP public middle school academies in Houston and New York City in 1994 by pitching their idea to school districts and going door-to-door, pulling parents aside and stopping them in shopping malls.
Having convinced 50 students and parents that their philosophy of education based on the “Five Pillars” (High expectations, more time on task, power to lead, focus on results, and choice and commitment) was the key to academic success, Mike and Dave were able to persuade their school districts to support KIPP.

A few years later, both KIPP academies were named the highest performing middle school in their respective districts. These amazing results were achieved with many odds against them: half of the entering class performed below grade level in reading and math and over 90% of the students qualified for free and reduced lunches. Today, the results have been nothing less than astounding, with the graduating class of 2001 (8th graders) earning over $5MM in scholarships.

Currently, KIPP supports five schools and has a goal of rolling out 11 new schools by summer 2002. To accomplish this, KIPP has partnered with the Pisces Foundation, started by Don and Doris Fisher, founders of The Gap, to provide training for new principals through the Fisher School Leadership Program (FSLP). FSLP is a one-year, selective, paid management/leadership training program, which involves two months at the School Leadership Institute at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, four months in three residencies at KIPP Network schools, and six months of on-site preparation for school startup.

“A successful Fisher Fellow is a dedicated overachiever with a sense of personal mission and desperately desires to build their own school,” John describes, “KIPP gives Fisher Fellows the freedom to choose a location, establish a board, find a facility, and build the school’s mission. In addition, they are responsible for producing KIPP-like results.”
How will KIPP sustain its success in the future? “KIPP has done an excellent job of having a relentless focus on school leadership and school culture with an unwavering commitment to the Five Pillars,” explained Alford. “We have a strong brand, and our reputation for delivering outstanding, tangible results has the potential to carry us as far as we want to go.”

Background on Charter Schools
Charter schools, with their grass roots beginning in Minnesota in 1992, have become a trend in education reform, growing to approximately 1,800 schools in 36 states. Over 350,000 students out of 67 million students are enrolled in elementary or secondary charter schools. Since 1994 the federal Department of Education has provided grants to support states’ charter school efforts, from $6 million in fiscal year 1995, to $100 million in fiscal year 1999.

The presentation will be made available on the HBS Video Showcase Website at // Find more information about KIPP and online applications for the Fisher School Leadership Program at An overview and statistics about charter schools at the national and state level is available at //