As Minneapolis public schools struggle to close the achievement gap, one school in north Minneapolis is making tremendous progress.
KIPP North Star Academy is a free open enrollment public charter school, which opened in 2008 in downtown Minneapolis and later moved to its current location in north Minneapolis in 2014. Although the school is a public school located in Minneapolis, it is not affiliated with the Minneapolis Public School District. Instead it is governed by the KIPP Minnesota board of directors. KIPP Minnesota was founded in 2006 - two years before the first Minnesota KIPP school was opened - "to address the racial and economic achievement gaps in Twin Cities’ public schools."
The first KIPP schools were started in 1995 in Houston and New York City. The schools are modeled after the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) started in Houston in 1994.
The school does receive some public funds to operate, but due to the state funding model Charter schools not associated with school districts receive less per pupil than traditional public schools. Because of the funding gap- and the “extra” initiatives at KIPP - like longer school days, and Saturday classes – the school also relies on private donations for funding.
In addition to traditional academics, the school focuses on "seven highly predictive character strengths that are correlated to leading engaged, happy and successful lives" and the graphics below appear on the wall of the school's gymnasium.
KIPP's motto is "Work hard. Be nice." The manifestation of their motto was on full-display, at the schools annual fundraising event - KIPP:tastic.
Cam Winton, Chair of the Board of Directors at KIPP Minnesota, provided an overview of the goals and focus of KIPP North Star Academy, during the evening program. Winton ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 2013.
KIPP North Star Academy, which starts at fifth grade, currently serves 230 students. Two students – one current and one past graduate - spoke at KIPP:tastic about how the environment at KIPP, which includes daily tests to measure progress, and the ability for students to call and text their teachers until 9 PM each night to ask for assistance with their homework, was so helpful to their academic and personal development.
One student told a deeply personal and compelling story comparing his life after attending KIPP, to the life of a cousin his same age who attends a public school in Milwaukee. That student had several competing scholarship offers from local private high schools- and announced his decision to attend Breck to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Another student spoke about her initial anxiety about attending KIPP, which quickly dissipated after she compared the learning environment at KIPP to her old public school. That student announced that she is currently entertaining several college offers.
The approach by the students, parents, teachers, and administrators at KIPP North Star Academy is working. The 2014 report card published by KIPP shows over 60 percent of students made a year and a half of academic progress in reading and mathematics in just one school year.
According to KIPP's website, there are "currently 183 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving nearly 70,000 students."
KIPP Minnesota will open KIPP North Star Primary for kindergarten students in fall 2016.
Video and picture source: KIPP Minnesota