Knowledge Is Power Program and Its Network


The Knowledge Is Power Programme (KIPP) is an organization in a form of the educational network that aims to meet the expectations of low-income families and provides children from different social and economic groups with access to education (KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016). The KIPP Foundation monitors charter schools providing alternative education in different cities of the United States. It is important to note that the KIPP Foundation is characterized by the network structure not only at the lower level of charter schools but also at the higher level of governance (KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016). The purpose of this paper is to provide a detailed analysis of the KIPP Foundation’s network concerning the organization’s mission and values and discuss the aspects of the structure that influence its operations.

Importance of Education and KIPP’s Background

The role of education in the modern world cannot be overestimated, however, the problem is in the fact that many social groups cannot afford high-quality education, and many children even in the United States remain to be illiterate (Carter et al., 2013). According to Niemi et al. (2012), nowadays, it is not enough to promote higher education opportunities or design certain courses, and much attention should be paid to the education in elementary, middle, and high schools (Gallagher, 2012; Lyon, 2012).

As a result, social leaders from all over the world tend to unite their efforts in the field of education to promote high-quality and accessible national and global education. Therefore, the international community is focused on creating a global education strategy the principles of which are also applied in states to promote the ideas of alternative education (Sullivan, 2016; Thomas, 2012).

KIPP schools and the KIPP Foundation represent the proponents of alternative and accessible education in the United States. KIPP was established in 1994, and Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, the founders of the program, we’re guided by their focus on helping students from the poor communities in developing and mastering their knowledge (Kapalka, 2007). The founders started to realize the program in Houston. The program was successful, and more middle schools were opened in New York (Angrist et al., 2011). KIPP schools are charter middle schools that provide education for students from grades 5 to 8. Currently, the leaders of KIPP work to develop the program for the high school to help students to enter colleges. It is important to note that the system of a lottery is used to select students to enter the program.

A student and his or her family can decide whether to attend a KIPP school or not (KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016). If the student and the family agree, they contact the principal and teachers in the school to discuss the conditions of their cooperation and rules (Gleason et al., 2014).

It is important to state that KIPP’s principle is that the majority of students who attend KIPP schools are children from families with low income (Collins & O’Brien, 2011; KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016; Maranto & Ritter, 2014; Nichols-Barrer et al., 2015). While referring to the support of the community, the KIPP program provides many students with an opportunity to change their life. According to the recent research, over 70,000 students in over than 180 schools across the United States are provided with a possibility to attend the charter school, participate in the KIPP program, and make the impressive progress in the relation to their education (Angrist et al., 2010; KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016).

KIPP’s Mission, Goals, and Vision

Currently, not all students in the United States have equal access to education, and families with low income do not have enough financial opportunities to provide their children with the high-quality education (Manna, 2013; Sandler, 2009; Singer, 2014). Therefore, such programs like KIPP are significant, and they should receive primary support (Thompson, 2016). In the KIPP Foundation, the leaders believe that each student can learn and accomplish educational and personal goals while achieving success in academic performance (Deneen & Catanese, 2011). The major objective of KIPP is to help students who represent different ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds in their learning process and provide them with possibilities to improve and master their specific skills.

Currently, KIPP is also considered to be a non-profit platform that provides students with an excellent opportunity to prepare for entering college (Kovacs, 2011). According to Richard Barth, the CEO of the KIPP Foundation, KIPP is addressing the needs of students who struggle with academics and who can have problems with behavior (How We Measure Success, 2016). These students are the target group of the program, and it is important to influence this group positively and provide such children with an opportunity to succeed in their life as they need to be motivated and guided by professionals (Fuller, 2015).

From this perspective, the fundamental mission of KIPP is to help students from poor communities to complete middle education. Today, this mission plans to be expanded since the organization becomes focused on preparing students for entering the college (Ark, 2012; Jacobs, 2008). According to Barth, the organization works to develop partnerships within the community and between students, families, and educators to promote the students’ education (Ash, 2013).

Therefore, the success of the program can be explained concerning some perspectives: high expectations, the participation of highly skilled teachers, and the provision of safe and structured environments (Winters, 2012). As for the high expectations, it should be emphasized that the teachers working in KIPP schools set the short-term and long-term goals for students to coordinate their development (Kuehne, 2012; Lane, 2014; Murphy & Fafard, 2012). The work in the program is organized by following two major principles, such as achievement and support (Fulgham, 2013; Worwood & Stonehouse, 2007). As a result, KIPP schools remain to be the most effective charter schools in the United States with a high percentage of the college enrolment.

KIPP Foundation’s Network

The activities of the KIPP Foundation depend on the developed national network that has several levels. On the highest level, the network includes the organization’s leaders and representatives of the Board of Directors, as well as philanthropists and foundations that support KIPP’s activities. At the lower level, the network includes the leaders and staff of more than 180 KIPP schools that are located in different cities of the United States (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016; KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016). For this case study, it is reasonable to focus on the KIPP Foundation’s network represented in Figure 1.

KIPP Foundation’s Network.
Figure 1. KIPP Foundation’s Network.

Actors of the KIPP Foundation’s Network

Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin are the main actors in the KIPP’s network, and they play the role of founders who opened the first KIPP schools in the United States. The cooperation with Scott Hamilton led Feinberg and Levin to work with Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, the organization promoting reforms in the sphere of education with the focus on charter schools (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016). Doris and Donald Fisher are founders of the Gap Foundation that supports Doris and Donald Fisher Fund as the organization financing educational initiatives. The support of Doris and Donald Fisher Fund allowed KIPP to develop into the KIPP Foundation oriented to promoting the available education nationally (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016; KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016).

John Fisher, the president of Pisces Incorporation and the Chairman of the Board of Directors in the KIPP Foundation, is also directly connected with the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, for which he works as a Special Advisor (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016; Macey et al., 2009). Fisher is focused on supporting reforms in the educational system of the United States. Richard Barth was appointed as CEO of the KIPP Foundation because of his experience of working for Edison Schools and the Teach for America project (Brown et al., 2012; Fender & Martinez, 2010; Obama, 2009).

Other important actors that influence the development of the KIPP Foundation are Katherine Bradley, the president of CityBridge Foundation, and Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix. Bradley works to support public schools and education initiative projects in Washington, D.C., and Hastings has an opportunity to use his experience of the President of the California State Board of Education (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016).

Philippe Dauman is one of the Directors who is currently the President and CEO of Viacom. Dauman cooperates with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support school initiatives. Michael Lomax is the CEO of the United Negro College Fund and provides support for minorities seeking opportunities to get higher education. Mark Nunnelly is one more leader who works for BainCapital and MassIT. Carrie Penner works for the Walton Family Foundation and supports the provision of access to education for all children in the United States.

In addition to the Walton Family Foundation and Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, the KIPP Foundation receives the support of the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Broad Education Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Accenture, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016; KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016). The leaders of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation use the experience of the KIPP Foundation in developing middle schools to apply the same model for establishing the accessible high schools. KIPP received almost eight million dollars to succeed in the development of projects for high school students (Groark, n.d.).

Analysis of the KIPP Network’s Structure

To analyze the specifics of the KIPP network’s structure, it is necessary to focus on such concepts as the heterarchy, philanthropy, and connectivity. These concepts are important to explain the idea of network governance. A heterarchy is a structure of the organization in which hierarchical relations cannot be determined, and the focus is on the other type of relations between actors (Rhodes, 2007).

The philanthropy is a practice of providing material support for persons and organizations to promote the development. In its turn, connectivity is a feature that describes the effective network in which all actors cooperate to achieve gains (Howard, 2002; KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016). While focusing on the high level of the KIPP’s network, it is important to focus on the role of the Board of Directors in influencing the development of the organization. Currently, the Board of Directors is represented by 14 members who are responsible for developing the KIPP Foundation’s relations with different funds (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016).

As a result, the activities of each leader guarantee the strengthening of the organization’s relations with a certain fund, and the company receives the support for the promotion of its educational initiatives (KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016). Still, the KIPP Foundation follows the government regulations related to the educational program and takes local regulations into account (Harrison, 2016). From this point, the work of the KIPP Foundation has the features of the heterarchy to guarantee the simultaneous coordination of different projects and the effective cooperation with different funds supporting educational initiatives.

It is important to note that the operations of the KIPP Foundation in different states of the country are almost impossible without the donations and support of such philanthropic partners as the Walton Family Foundation, Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Broad Education Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Accenture, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016).

The network of KIPP charter schools develops because of the strong cooperation between philanthropic organizations the leaders of which are in the Foundation’s Board of Directors and KIPP leaders (KIPP Public Charter Schools, 2016). Alternative education in the United States has limited governmental funding, and the development of the KIPP Foundation and KIPP schools depend on the issue of connectivity directly. The active participation of philanthropists as important actors in determining the strategies for KIPP schools influence the development of the KIPP Foundation’s organizational model.

In addition to the material support and connections, the relations between the KIPP Foundation and philanthropic organizations are also based on the ideological factor. The idea of the alternative education available to all children despite their social and economic status is promoted by many funds cooperating with the KIPP Foundation which mission is to serve the needs of children from different poor communities. The same ideological and philosophical grounds are important to develop connectivity and establish new organizational models in the sphere of education that reject the principles of the traditional hierarchy. It is important to concentrate more on the impact of global corporations, philanthropic organizations, and social entrepreneurs on the development of KIPP charter schools (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016).

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the most influential organizations in this context because it promotes the reform of traditional education and the participation of the government in educating representatives of different social classes (KIPP Board of Directors, 2016). The national support for KIPP schools and the proposed system of education is guaranteed concerning the promotion in the context of educational initiatives sponsored by Netflix, Gap, and Viacom among other corporations. It is possible to note that the structure of KIPP’s network is specific because this model reflects the transformations in the educational and governance policies to address the needs of the sector’s development.

One more goal of KIPP is to be effective in terms of achieving the low attrition index and increasing positive indicators (Regional Results, 2016). When a school has a high attrition index, something is wrong, and the system does not function the way it is supposed to be; thus, the system should be improved, and more innovations can be proposed. KIPP works to reduce the attrition index every year (over 15% in 2007 in comparison to almost 10% in 2011) (History, 2016).

It is positive to achieve high results because of the cooperation between the network representatives. Although some students can leave the KIPP program and new children can be invited, the overall index of performance is not affected significantly. The support provided by the funds and other organizations supporting KIPP is effective to guarantee the strategic development of the KIPP’s network of charter schools in the country. Middle school students who leave the program demonstrate improvement in their skills. Therefore, it is possible to state that the program is beneficial although not each student can complete it successfully (Belgrave & Allison, 2010).

KIPP’s Accomplishments and the Role of the Network

To understand how KIPP can influence the students’ community and what accomplishments of the program can be, it is significant to consider the results of the program. According to the reports of KIPP, students involved in middle schools are African Americans (more than 55%), Latinos (about 40%), and the other 4% are the representatives of other nationalities (Marquardt, 2011). The KIPP Foundation reports that the objective of the program is reached only in the case when students desire to come back the next year and continue the process of education. It is worth noting that almost 90% of students returned to KIPP in 2015 (Liebowitz, 2012).

This index is high, as it is evident that students enjoy the program and the communication with educators. The ability to transform a life of people and direct children to succeed is valuable. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that it is not enough for the program to attract students because the fundamental goal of KIPP is to create a trajectory of education that will help students to enter the college and become successful in their life (Barker, 2011). Therefore, the staff chooses to cooperate with the family members, as well as children, to foster their development and stimulate improvement (Childress, 2010).

The recent report suggests that KIPP is a very influential organization that is effective in terms of helping students on their way to the improvement of educational performance. Over 30% of students who attended KIPP middle schools show better academic performance in the college and get a bachelor’s degree (Kipp, 2013). Although progress is evident, it should be highlighted that some organizations and experts in the sphere of education claim that this percentage is not enough and children from low-income families need more attention and demand the usage of new approaches to succeed in academic performance (Semel, 2010).

The effective policy in the sphere of education is always a valuable contribution to the future. The questions regarding the economic status and education are highly related to each other because only those people who are well educated can provide the society with the useful innovations, improvement, and advance (Peterson, 2006). Thus, the symbiosis regarding solving economic issues and education is the primary issue that should receive the highest priority and concern. Finally, one of the main accomplishments is the creation of a safe environment where students are provided with all the necessary conditions for education that is the fundamental aspect of success.

Critical Evaluation of the KIPP’s Network

The work of the KIPP Foundation is significant for the positive development and improvement of the academic sphere to involved students from underserved communities. The leaders of the KIPP Foundation support the idea that education provides a person with a possibility to get information for the further development and orientation. The social status of a person can change if he or she has a chance to be educated by talented teachers who can guide a student towards the improvement. In this context, the KIPP is a unique organization that works to spread the knowledge and provide everyone with a chance to stimulate personal development.

However, it is important to state that the activities of the KIPP Foundation have significant results only because of the specific network. To address the limits of the conservative or traditional approach to education and governance, it is necessary to apply a lot of resources, and the support of the philanthropic organizations and social entrepreneurs is important at this stage to guarantee the daily work of many KIPP schools in the country.

It is possible to state that the network of the KIPP Foundation is effective to sponsor projects in charter schools, inform the public regarding achievements of the Foundation, promote cooperation with different institutions, attract new investors, and gain public loyalty and recognition. The network depends on the modern transformational model based on the ideas of heterarchy and mobility. As a result, the members of the network can address the issues associated with the schools’ development at different levels and in the most efficient manner. It is important to state that the program could experience some difficulties while functioning as a non-profit organization without the assistance of influential individuals who understand the significant role of education in the modern world (Hitt, 2016).

All stakeholders who are involved in the KIPP’s operations as the representatives of the network are focused on research to investigate their potential students’ demographics, as well as formulate and design the approaches that can be used for their target group and other students (Kolker, 2011; Our Approach, 2016). According to their findings of the KIPP research center, the majority of students who attend KIPP schools from the fifth grade are people from families who cannot be enrolled in the public or private schools, and the program addresses their needs directly.

Conclusion

As the organization, KIPP was established more than twenty years ago, and its experience is beneficial for the students who attend KIPP middle schools. The role of education should not be undervalued for success not only in life but in the workplace as well. Due to the program, each person, even from low-income families, has equal access to the educational process, and thus, benefits. Several people and organizations that stand behind the KIPP Foundation contribute to the development and improvement of the system of modern education and show that everyone can be successful, and the only requirement is the desire.

The highly professional staff at KIPP schools is capable of motivating and directing students, and they are provided with an excellent opportunity that will help them to discover the world and enter a new stage of self-development and improvement. The network governance followed in the organization contributes to the program’s development. The reports that are provided by KIPP prove that the organization is successful and reaches its objectives; however, it is worth stating that there is still room for improvement, and thus, KIPP chooses the appropriate strategies and methods to change a life of as many students as possible.

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