By Megan Rolland | October 26, 2011
Read the full report at The Oklahoman >
Principal Tracy McDaniel is shooting for the tipping point.
For the past 10 years his school — KIPP Reach College Preparatory — has been taking predominately low-income middle school students from northeast Oklahoma City and helping them surpass the academic achievements of their more privileged peers.
But McDaniel says one school that serves about 280 students isn't enough.
He wants to expand to an elementary school and high school. He wants to partner with other inner-city schools to spread the success of KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program.
“If we can do some things to share, to open the doors and to be a tipping point for Oklahoma City,” McDaniel said. “I want all those schools to be successful, not just KIPP.”
Thursday night at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum, McDaniel will share his vision with leaders from across the state in education and business.
He will be joined by the Mike Feinberg — the co-founder of the first KIPP school in Houston — who now is the head of a program used in 109 KIPP schools across the nation.
Feinberg, of “Waiting for Superman” fame, will talk about “The Power of Transformational Education.”
McDaniel is using the school's 10th anniversary next fall as a launching point for the expansion of KIPP.
He says he wants KIPP to be like FedEx, which cornered 10 percent of the market offering second-day delivery and forces the U.S. Postal Service to do the same.
Only in this case, McDaniel said the best practice will be longer school days, weeks and years and more time for teachers to be available to students.
“Our school day is from 7:15 a.m. to 5:515 p.m., and teachers are available for phone calls at night for homework help till 9 p.m.,” McDaniel said. “I can't even tell you why teachers are here in this building, other than the satisfaction of results.”
He said giving out the cellphone numbers of every teacher forces them to get immediate feedback about their teaching, especially when students have many questions about the same problem.
“The teachers teach a little better because no one wants 50 phone calls in the night,” he joked.
But for McDaniel, the success of his students is personal, too. Northeast Oklahoma City is his community. He grew up a few blocks from the school and started his career as a teacher with Oklahoma City Public Schools, eventually becoming a principal.
He left to start the KIPP school in 2001 with the hope he could make a difference in the lives of children in his community.
And he has. Last year, his graduating class of eighth-graders outperformed every other school in the state on their math and reading exams. Not a single student scored below proficient on either; 82 percent scored advanced in math and 64 percent did the same in reading.
To expand beyond the building he shares with F.D. Moon Elementary School, McDaniel said he needs community buy-in and support for the school, something he hopes to gain Thursday when Feinberg speaks.