It was a regular day for KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Inspire Academy Executive Director Thomas Walker as he walked down the school’s hallways, checking in on classes to see what progress was being made. Each student he passed along his tour looked up with a smile and a “Hi, Dr. Walker.”
“KIPP is a college-prep school,” Walker said. “We don’t want our kids to just go to college, but also go through college.”
KIPP is a national network of free, open-enrollment, charter-schools dedicated to preparing students for success in college and life. There are 99 KIPP schools in 20 states, serving more than 26,000 students. Over 85 percent of KIPP students nationwide go to college.
Here in St. Louis, the KIPP school sits on Ohio Avenue. The school serves the same district as St. Louis Public Schools, Walker said.
“Many of our students come from challenged neighborhoods. There are 30 percent who come from the surrounding neighborhood, and 70 percent who come from North St. Louis, in which we provide free transportation for,” Walker said. “Right now, 94 percent of our students are on free or reduced lunches.”
In order to help the new school run effectively, KIPP turns to ARCHS’ Leveraged Resources Management (LRM) to handle its finances.
“LRM is especially important to us as a start-up organization because it allows us to focus more on what our mission is, which is getting kids ready for college. It allows us a comfort in terms of not having to worry about processing payroll, because that’s not really our forte,” Walker said. “There is so much financial information I need for grants, so whenever I have a question, LRM has it quickly for us. It’s a lot more effective and efficient.”
KIPP runs off five pillars: more time in school that includes classes from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and summer/Saturday school schedules; a commitment to excellence, in which all students and parents sign a formal agreement to prepare for college; leadership autonomy; focus on results; and high expectations.
Last year (its first year) KIPP: St. Louis had 69 students complete the coursework, built a strong a committed staff, worked closely with its charterer Washington University in St. Louis, produced strong first year MAP scores, and ranked #1 in KIPP schools nationally as measured by progress toward grade level.
“KIPP gives parents a real choice in St. Louis,” said Beverly Arri Rombach, Director of Development at KIPP. “We have an extended school day, we have a 3-week summer session, we have school on two Saturdays each month, parents are encouraged to come in and be involved in activities going on. It’s not unusual to walk by a classroom and see a parent sitting in, and observing what’s going on.”
KIPP currently serves grades 5-8. Its long-term plans includes opening two elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school. KIPP is currently taking enrollment. Find out more by calling 865-2624.
“Our schools benefits students with better grades, better student outcomes, everyone including the students love being here, better discipline and better traits to prepare kids for college,” Walker said.