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KIPP, or the Knowledge is Power Program is a highly influential network of charter schools in the US. Like academies and free schools in the UK, charters are schools that are privately operated but publicly funded, but which also receive funding from private donors.

It is the US' biggest chain of charter schools, with 183 schools across the country, serving mainly low-income communities.

KIPP was founded in 1994 by Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, two Teach for America alumni. Richard Barth, CEO of KIPP is a founding member of Teach for America and married to its CEO Wendy Kopp.

Character education

KIPP, like Ark in the UK, emphasises discipline and 'behaviour management' in its schools. Its motto is: 'Work Hard. Be Nice'.

It teaches 'character education' in its schools, which focuses on developing 7 particular character traits in pupils: zest, grit, optimism, self-control, gratitude, social intelligence and curiosity.

For a fairly detailed criticism of character education, see Teaching Character: Grit, privilege, and American education's obsession with novelty, in The American Prospect magazine.

Critics argue, for example, that by focusing on teaching qualities like 'grit' to children on low incomes, it allows reformers to ignore more structural issues, such as the uniquely debilitating effects of poverty, or the profoundly unequal opportunities these children are presented with.

Criticism of KIPP

KIPP has been hailed by many for raising standards in schools that serve poorer students. Research in 2011 (Miron et al), however, has linked the success of KIPP schools to its selecting particularly motivated pupils (and that come from motivated families), its higher funding compared to normal state schools, and high drop-out rates. KIPP has been said to do 'an admirable job of selecting smart and determined students, but they are basically a triage operation, not a model for inclusive public education.'[1]

Influence around the world

KIPP at the moment only operates schools in the US and it says it has no plans to run schools overseas.

However, it says it has 'begun to support educators from other countries to start their own schools inspired by KIPP.'

It does this by 'training international educators' in the KIPP way. It refers to this international training as its 'Global Fellowship' and it is working with a new partner organization, TOWNS, or The One World Network of Schools, to identify and select 'Global Fellows'.

Influence in the UK

KIPP is the model for the Ark chain of schools in the UK, and KIPP schools in the US have been visted by leadership teams from Ark.

KIPP has also been praised by Michael Gove on a number of occasions, and Mike Feinberg from KIPP attended the UK's first 'free school' conference.[2]

Private funding

As well as receiving public funds, KIPP has attracted additional funds for its schools from, among many others:


KIPP Foundation

  • Sherry Preiss, head of the KIPP Foundation's Teaching and Learning Lab, which promotes curriculum, assessment and professional development services and products in developed by the Lab. Preiss was formerly with Pearson, where she also helped develop curriculum and sessment products and led a global team that created and delivered large-scale professional development programs in countries around the world.[3]
  • Jonathan Cowan, head of Research, Design & Innovation. Formerly with Boston Consulting Group, where he built and led BCG's public education practice.[4]




  1. Tested, The Nation, 29 January 2014
  2. Hundreds of teachers, charities and parents gather for first ever free schools conference, DfE press release, 28 January 2011
  3. KIPP Foundation Operating Committee, KIPP website, accessed February 2016
  4. KIPP Foundation Operating Committee, KIPP website, accessed February 2016