KIPP Academy Charter Middle School
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Challenging academics and good college prep
Limited physical education, no art
KIPP Academy Charter School combines challenging academics with an emphasis on building character, persistence, and what teachers call grit. The first school in what has become a national network, KIPP has a strong record of preparing children from one of the citys poorest neighborhoods for selective and demanding colleges.
Classes run from 7:25 am to 4:30 pm during the regular school year and from 8 am to 2 pm during the last two weeks of August.
Founded as a tiny middle school in 1995, KIPP Academy Charter School has grown to serve children in grades k-12 in three different buildings. [The combined statistics for all three schools are listed at the top of this page, but the photos posted here are for the middle school only.]
Unlike some charter networks, each site in KIPPs network has a slightly different personality. The KIPP Academy elementary in the Bronx, with grades k-4 housed in a new building at 730 Concourse Village West, emphasizes strict discipline and a heavy homework load.
The middle school, with grades 5-8 on the fourthfloor of an older building on East 156thStreet, is orderly and classes are demanding, but the staff focuses on teaching children self-control (rather than simply how to follow rules). Teachers work extra hard to accommodate children who struggle academically. We heard no raised voices or signs of harsh discipline on our visit, and both teachers and students seem happy to be here. Children may work together on projectslike a science class in which they made robots out of small motors and tongue depressorsor study by themselves, reading quietly while they flop on a sofa or a rug on the floor or work through math problems on a computer. We saw imaginative lessons, such as a thoughtful discussion of Malcolm Xs use of rhetoric. Children may read classics such as Romeo and Juliet and Animal Farmor contemporary novels such as Kite Runner and Holes.
All graduates of the five KIPP middle schools (one in the Bronx, three in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn) are entitled to attend the high school at 201 E. 144th St. in a new building opened in 2013.
In its early years, KIPP middle school lost students who couldnt keep up with the pace. But Frank Corcoran, a math teacher who helped found KIPP and who became principal in 2011, says the school is committed to retaining all of its students and to help them be successful. We absolutely do not counsel kids out, he said.
Four teachers called learning specialists tutor children in small groups to build their reading skills. Although these teachers are trained in special education, their classes are open to any child who needs extra help and dont seem to carry the stigma that special education does in so many schools. Science, social studies and even math teachers work with English teachers to make sure kids learn to read wella rarity in middle school. Were all reading teachers here, one staff member said.
Because the middle school begins in 5thgrade, children get the benefit of having specialized teachers earlier than in most middle schools which begin in 6thgrade. Fifth-graders get two hours of math instruction from a certified math teacher every day; by the end of 8thgrade, nearly all are well-prepared for high school and many take the algebra Regents exam. The school has long kept track of where its graduates go to college, and the staff posts banners in the corridors showing where KIPPsters have been admitted including Vassar, Yale, Barnard, Columbia and Haverford.
Teacher turnover is low, and there is a sense of camaraderie among the staff fostered by the principal. Frank says, I trust you. I know you want whats best for the kids,' said Kelsey Waters, a special education teacher. We all have coaches, and we observe one anothers classes. Ifeel as though all my friends work here. Rare among charter schools, KIPP Academy Middle School in the Bronx has a unionized staff. Teachers are paid 20 percent more than typical UFT salaries because they work a longer school day and year, a KIPP spokesman said.
The school has an orchestra and all students learn to play an instrument: violin, viola, cello, bass guitar, piano, xylophone or drums. The physical plant is drab, located on the fourth floor of a building that also houses IS 151 and PS /MS 31. There are no art classes. KIPP students have little access to the gymnasium: 5th-graders have physical education classes once a week; older students have no phys ed at all. However all student may play on the playground after lunch. KIPP students (and most teachers) wear KIPP T-shirts and jeans.
Special education: Tutoring is available for students whether or not they have Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Children receiving special education services score higher on math and reading exams than the citywide average for children with special needs. Children are encouraged to read their own IEPs to better understand their challenges, Waters said.
Admission: Students are accepted by a lottery, held in April. Siblings and students who attend KIPP elementary school have priority. A few seats are available in the upper grades. (Clara Hemphill, May 2014)Read more