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SAN FRANCISCO -- With 31 college prep public middle schools in operation, KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) has received a $7.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its successful, high-performing public middle schools into the high school grades. KIPP will start new high schools linked to its public middle schools, including those in Houston, Texas and Gaston, N.C.
Over the last decade, the KIPP elementary and middle school model has drawn national attention for the academic achievement of its students, the vast majority of whom are African-American and Latino children from educationally underserved communities. The KIPP Academy New York, for example, has been recognized as the highest performing public middle school in the Bronx in reading, math, and attendance each year since the 1997-1998 school year. The school now ranks in the top 10 percent of all New York City elementary and middle schools in math and reading achievement.
"For KIPP students, college is the goal because a college degree is the door to greater opportunity," explains Scott Hamilton, CEO of KIPP. "And with this generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, KIPP schools will be able to do even more to make college a reality for their students."
Until now, KIPP schools have begun at fifth grade and ended in eighth. But starting this July, KIPP will begin adding a high school component to the original KIPP Academy in Houston. In future years, more KIPP schools will build out to become fifth through 12th-grade schools.
According to the Manhattan Institute, one-third of eighth graders in America today do not graduate from high school, and of those who do graduate, less than half are prepared for college. The problem is even greater for minorities, with nearly half of all African-American and Hispanic students not making it to graduation day.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's support of KIPP's expansion is part of its effort to improve high school graduation and college preparedness rates through small, high-quality schools that focus on academic rigor and close relationships between staff, students and families. Like the existing KIPP middle schools, KIPP's high schools will provide longer classes and school days, rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, and intense connections between students and staff.
"Students succeed when they are challenged by their coursework, inspired by their teachers, and encouraged by their parents," said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "KIPP has already created middle schools that provide the rigor, discipline, personalized learning and parental involvement that young people need. Now it's time to use that model to create high schools that help all students graduate prepared for college and success."
A recent report from Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based educational research and advocacy organization, shows that successful schools prepare all young people for college, work, and citizenship by offering a rigorous instruction that challenges all students; a relevant course of study that motivates students through real world experience; and, meaningful relationships that ensure that a caring adult is involved with every young person's learning experience. These attributes are most often found in small schools -- generally no more than 400 students. Studies show all else being equal, students in small schools score higher on tests, pass more courses and go on to college more frequently than those in larger ones.
"Adding a high school component will allow KIPP to match its established academic rigor with a new philosophy of growing 'supportive independence'," said Jonathan Schorr, KIPP's high school program director. "By helping students grow into strong young adults as well as strong scholars, the high school will build a bridge between the existing program and competitive colleges," Schorr said.
This new investment builds on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's overall strategy to help create a diverse portfolio of small school options and multiple pathways to meet students' needs as they move through high school and higher education. To date, the foundation has invested more than $740 million to support over 1,900 schools, the majority of which are high schools.
### About KIPP In 1994, two young Teach for America graduates, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, launched KIPP with a program for fifth graders in a public school in inner-city Houston. In 1995, Levin established KIPP Academy in the South Bronx, and Feinberg's KIPP Academy Houston became one of Houston's first charter schools. The Texas Education Agency has recognized KIPP Academy Houston as an "Exemplary School" for every year of its existence. The KIPP family of schools has grown to 31 public schools that now serve students in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
Established in 2000 by a $15 million grant from Gap Inc. founders Doris and Donald Fisher, the nonprofit KIPP Foundation recruits, trains and supports outstanding teachers who open college-prep public schools in high-needs communities across the country. Although each school is locally controlled, KIPP helps arrange for facilities and operating contracts while training school leaders through a year-long program that includes coursework at the University of California's Haas School of Business, "residencies" at other KIPP schools, and support from expert KIPP staff.
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