Dr. Michael Lomax
At KIPP, an entire community works together to ensure that all students develop to their fullest potential. There is no arbitrary ceiling placed on what a student can achieve: externals like skin color, family income, zip code, or place of birth are not used to justify the delivery of some watered-down academic program. KIPP schools are intensely and unapologetically academic. It gives students the building blocks – math, reading, arts, music, and the higher order thinking skills of analyzing and deconstructing and reconstructing – that prepare students for a wonderful life and future.
I’ve seen KIPP from many different perspectives. As president of UNCF (the United Negro College Fund), the nation’s largest private provider of scholarships to students of color, I am deeply committed to finding innovative programs around the country that reform the educational experience. As a KIPP board member, I’ve been able to witness firsthand the breadth and scope of a KIPP education: I’ve witnessed thoughtful discussions about 20th century history in Newark, listened to a band concert in Fresno, and participated in a flourishing art classroom in Austin. And I have personally felt the power of team and family: my grandson and granddaughter are both KIPPsters.
Of course, any school that helps students achieve is good in and of itself. But you can’t build a movement around one school. KIPP is a proof point. It is a laboratory for best practice, it is influential, it is a beacon for what can happen elsewhere, and it shows parents and students that there is something else possible. I have visited so many KIPP schools, and every experience has left a profound impression on me. Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t think every school in America needs to be a charter. But I do believe that every school in America needs to perform at the same level that a KIPP school does.
Last year, when speaking at Howard University’s commencement ceremony, President Obama said that, “Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day.” We need to do just that. We need to fight every day for black and brown kids. We need to fight for kids no matter where they grew up. Every student deserves a chance to walk through the doors of opportunity.