Getting to Know KIPP:

This morning a group of funders and community representatives met at KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) for a breakfast with KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth and KIPP St. Louis Executive Director Kelly Garrett.   The group got to hear the story of KIPP- why it was created, how it was created, and the driving principles.  For those of you who don’t know, KIPP is a national network of free open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools dedicated to preparing students in underserved communities for success in life and college. Over 85% of KIPP students nationwide go to college.  KIPP has been around for more than 15 years now and has been in St. Louis since 2009.  The leader of KIPP: Inspire Academy in St. Louis is Jeremy Esposito.  The institutional sponsor of the charter school is Washington University.

While there is currently only one KIPP school in St. Louis, Barth and Garrett shared information about KIPP’s growth plans both nationally and locally.  They made it very clear that the KIPP network plans to grow deeper before they grow wider.  That is good news for St. Louis- KIPP already has a footprint here, albeit a small one, but the KIPP network is dedicated to growing their presence in our community. KIPP currently has 109 schools nationwide and serves over 32,000 students.  It’s goal by 2015 is to serve 55,000 students. 

The two leaders shared some alarming facts and statistics related to education.  Did you know that only 8% of poor kids in St. Louis will ever make it to college?  In St. Louis, 80% of the students who attend public schools are in the free and reduced lunch program.  At KIPP Inspire 89% receive free or reduced lunch so the students at the school are very representative of the population.  KIPP Inspire wants to help St. Louis increase the number of kids who go to college.  The data from KIPP’s in other cities tell them that this is possible and that in a ten-year period a real change can be made in the college matriculation rate.

Garrett inspired the group by talking about the transformative opportunity KIPP Inspire is offering the kids currently enrolled there.  College banners line the walls and the teacher’s desks are filled with college paraphernalia.  Let me remind you- KIPP Inspire is a middle school.  But they are very serious about getting their kids to and through college.

KIPP is not the only charter school in this city or in this country doing great work but it was exciting to hear a national success story that has a chance at being successful locally.  We look forward to hearing more about KIPP St. Louis in the coming months and years and only hope that the success that KIPP has seen nationally can be realized locally.

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