KIPP Infinity branched out into an elementary school in 2010 with the introduction of four kindergarten classes in the same West Harlem building that houses the KIPP Infinity Middle School. The elementary is designed to feed into the established middle school, adding a grade annually until it grows to K through 4. After 2014, when the fourth grade arrives, KIPP Infinity will be a complete K-8 school, and most new students will enter KIPP as kindergartners rather than as 5th-graders.
KIPP is a charter network that runs 99 schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia. KIPP Infinity’s elementary and middle schools are on the third floor of West Harlem’s Terence D. Tolbert Educational Complex. KIPP shares the building with I.S. 195 Roberto Clemente, a middle school that is closing because of poor performance. In 2011, KIPP NYC College Prep moved into the same building. The high school will move to the Bronx when its permanent home is ready in the Bronx (likely in 2013). When we visited in March 2011, KIPP officials were unsure where additional elementary classrooms would be located, but solving space issues seemed to be an annual occurrence.
KIPP’s elementary school classrooms are bright, inviting spaces that each feature two teachers. The school day is long (7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in kindergarten) but kids get 45-minute naps and a snack break. Each day includes a “theater” where kids act out lessons and a “movement” class that involves gymnastics or dance.
Elementary teachers favor project-based learning. Kids studying environmental science explore how they share the planet with plants and animals, and then go on a field trip to the nearby Hudson River. Discipline takes the “love and logic” approach, in which bad choices have consequences and good choices earn rewards. (For more details on the KIPP philosophy, see the review of the KIPP Infinity middle school.)
KIPP’s elementary kids eat in a small lunchroom separate from the main cafeteria. They occasionally see KIPP middle-schoolers on the third floor but rarely interact with students from I.S. 195, who tend to use rough language in the hallways.
After a child is selected in the annual lottery, KIPP staff visit the home to meet with the family and emphasize the commitment that will be required of both students and parents. Parents regularly get reports on their child’s progress.
Special education: All four kindergarten classes had two teachers. In three of the four, one of the two teachers was qualified to teach special education, making those classes comparable to the CTT model.
Admission: A lottery for both the elementary and middle schools is held each April. Priority is given to (in order) siblings, students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, and children living in District 5. (Skip Card, April 2011)