KIPP Infinity Charter School
Orderly, structured environment; two teachers in each class
Some families may prefer more child-centered instruction
KIPP Infinity Elementary School, part of a national charter network, has an orderly, structured environment with clear expectations and routines. While the KIPP schools nationally have shared core values (their motto is Work hard. Be nice.), school leaders have some autonomy to decide whats best for each community based on their own educational philosophy. KIPP Infinity Elementarys mantra is UNITE, which stands for Understand, Never give up, Imagine, Take a risk and Explore.
Kids are expected to track (follow their teachers with their eyes), sit up straight and not speak in class unless instructed to do so. Teachers keep children on task with frequent reminders to track me, or speak loud and proud, hands folded on the desk. Children use sign language to communicate when they agree or disagree with each other.
The school day is long, from 8 am to 4 pm, but it is broken up in a way that allows the smallest children time to rest. Kindergartners eat lunch at 10:40 am and have a snack in the afternoon. They take a nap after lunch and recess.
There is a heavy focus on reading and math, and lessons are closely tied to the Common Core Standards. All classes follow the same daily schedule and lessons are heavily scripted. After leaving one math class and walking into a second, we saw the same lesson continued without missing a beat.
Like all schools in the network, KIPP Inifnity follows the Wheatley curriculum for English language arts with a strong focus on guided reading. Field trips reinforce what was read and written about in the classroom. A unit on bridges culminated with a trip to the Queens Museum and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
In kindergarten, dimmed lights and music are cues that help with timing and transitions. In the upper grades, teachers use different strategies to manage behavior. One student having trouble sitting still for long periods of time was given a choice ring with cards representing a predetermined number of breaks allowed each day, enabling her to take them independently. Instructional assistants attend to kids having a difficult time, allowing the classroom teacher to proceed with lessons uninterrupted.
Theres a purposeful effort to build a strong sense of community among families so that, after these kids go off to college, they come back to Harlem as the teachers and leaders of their community, said Co-Principal Stephanie Adams. Starting in kindergarten, home visits are conducted for every child entering the school. The Parents Association meets once a month and produces community building events such as a Mothers Day dinner. Throughout the year parents are invited to publishing parties and there is an open door policyparents may come in to observe a class whenever they want to.
Specials include art, science, dance and gymalso heavily guided by teacher instruction. In a dance class, students waited for several minutes while they listened to teacher directives and seemed uncertain when they were actually given free rein to move. Some families may find that a more student-centered approach to instruction is a better fit for their child.
The elementary school occupies the 2nd floor of West Harlems Terence D. Tolbert Educational Complex. It shares the building with New Design Middle School, KIPP Infinity Middle School, and KIPP STAR Elementary School.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Self-contained and ICT (integrated co-teaching), classes are available. Kids with IEPs received related services on site.
ADMISSIONS: A lottery is held each April. Priority is given to siblings, students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, and children from District 5. (Mahalia Watson, November 2015)
MIDDLE SCHOOL REVIEW:
In middle school, KIPP educators focus a great deal on character development. New arrivals get schooled in the KIPP reward-and-punishment system, which requires that they earn everything they get, including a locker and the right to wear a KIPP shirt. Weekly paychecks that measure attendance, homework, and behavior go home each Friday and must be signed by parents. Students also get a character report card that grades qualities such as self-control, kindness and grit.
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. Three times a year, KIPP holds report card night, when parents must meet with teachers and review their childs academic and social progress.
Most 5th-graders who are chosen each spring to attend KIPP Infinity's middle school arrive needing remedial help, but few stay below grade level for long. Students are grouped and labeled according to the year they will graduate from high school, although KIPP educators call it the year theyre going to go to college, because college is seen as an inevitable part of their future. In 7th grade, students visit four college campuses.
Middle school classrooms are typically decorated with the colors and logos of the teachers alma mater, and most rooms and hallways feature sofas or thick rugs in soft areas, where students can relax or study. Teachers sometimes play classical music while students read silently, and we saw one teacher burning scented candles. Teachers are expected to be accessible for students questions. We were told that every student has the cell phone number of every member of staff.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Students with IEPs are taught in general-ed classes but get extra help from intervention specialists.
ADMISSIONS:A lottery is held each April. Priority is given to (in order) siblings, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and children from District 5. New students typically enter KIPP at kindergarten rather than 5th grade.(Skip Card, April 2011)
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Manhattan NY 10027