Kipp S.T.A.R. College Prep Charter School
NEW YORK NY 10027 Map
Kipp S.T.A.R. College Prep Charter School
Enthusiasm permeates the bright blue halls of KIPP STAR Charter College Prep in Harlem, where rap songs and desk drumming are just part of a normal day. “Is this is a problem/solution, a compare/contrast or a cause/effect essay?” a 5th-grade writing teacher asks her class. Students respond with a “boom, boom, clap, snap!” In KIPP lingo, that means compare/contrast, and it’s the right answer.
Part of the national KIPP Charter Network, KIPP STAR is a middle school where 83 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch and many enter performing below grade level. STAR, which stands for Success Through Achievement and Responsibility, has high expectations nevertheless. “Our goal is to get our students to and through college,” says Director of Operations Shannon Stockdale.
The college goal is an integral part of school culture. Teachers’ alma maters adorn the doors of their classrooms and each class is named for the year its students are expected to graduate college. Mentors follow students through high school and college to offer support for college completion—even those who leave before graduation or move internationally.
The school, which shares a gym and auditorium with adjacent PS 125, has seen a string of principals come and go since its founding in 2003. More stability is expected with new principal Stacy Johnson, a former KIPP reading and special education teacher who has been with the school since 2005.
KIPP STAR emphasizes character development as well as academics, and students receive separate report cards for both. An incentive system allows students to earn “paycheck” points to “buy” special activities offered by teachers such as a pizza party or karaoke night. At the end of the year, those with at least 35 paycheck points and less than 10 absences earn coveted spots for overnight trips to Washington D.C. (5th grade), upstate camping (6th grade), a civil rights tour of the South (7th grade) and an eco-tourism trip to Clearwater, Florida (8th grade). Students who misbehave serve detention during lunch or afterschool and lose points on their paychecks.
Doors open at 6:30 a.m. for free breakfast, and students settle into homeroom by 7:25 a.m. Classes run on a rotating schedule with a heavy focus on reading and writing, and in the lower grades science and history are combined. By 7th grade, students take a separate science class and have access to two labs with microscopes and triple beam balances for growing mold. Seventh-graders mummify chickens and participate in a science fair, while eighth graders dissect frogs.
Students enjoy a break from the heavy academics during STAR Block from 3:30-4:30 p.m., the last period of each day when they can participate in electives such as newspaper, drama or Afro-Caribbean drumming. Homework is one hour and twenty minutes each night for four subjects plus thirty minutes of individual reading. Mrs. Garcia, mother of a 6th-grader says the load is manageable, noting that she hopes to send her daughter, currently a 4th-grader to the school as well. “I would love it,” she says.
Classes are steady at about 28-31 students, but the level of engagement we saw varied. In a 5th-grade nonfiction class (KIPP’s combination of science and history) students sat with their hands folded and then eagerly participated in a rap song naming all the 206 bones in the body. Others in a 7th-grade writing class were more fidgety and looked bored.
The school makes an effort to foster community with its families through parenting workshops, monthly newsletters and regular family gatherings. Still, parent participation remains low, says Operations Associate Matthew Whitnall noting that KIPP’s Teacher Family Association is run by the administration, not parents, for lack of involvement.
(KIPP STAR College Prep and KIPP STAR Elementary, which shares a building with PS 115 at 586 West 177 Street, are not connected, although they were founded on the same charter and the DOE has combined their data for reporting purposes. Students from the elementary schools will move on to the nearby KIPP Washington Heights Middle School.
Most students go on to KIPP NYC College Prep High School in Harlem. The data for the middle school students who go on to KIPP NYC College Prep High School is reported on this profile page.)
After school: Students participate in athletics between 4:30 p and 5:30 pm including boys’ and girls’ basketball, flag football and step dance. During this time teachers and volunteers from the Columbia Business and Law Schools also offer extra tutoring. Once a month, Saturday School gives students help with homework or time to prep for the state standardized test for reading.
Special education: The school has a special education coordinator to oversee services as well as learning specialists in each grade and two full-time social workers. A speech therapist works Mondays-Thursdays and an occupational therapist and physical therapist visit once a week.
Admissions: Enrollment is based on a lottery in April with priority for District 5 students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. (Aimee Sabo, March 2013)