Oklahoma City would benefit from KIPP expansion

ByTracy McDaniel (op-ed)

Read the full article at NewsOK.com >

Oklahoma City is on the rise — from our amazing basketball team, to development downtown, I am proud to see my hometown becoming a big league city. But even as I cheer for the Thunder and for the city’s progress, I’m concerned that we are overlooking one necessary element for Oklahoma City’s future: access to high-quality public schools, especially for children in the northeast community.

It’s no secret that schools in northeast Oklahoma City face difficult obstacles, including students who struggle with poverty and lack of economic opportunity. But as a product of this northeast community and the founder of KIPP Reach, a public charter school located in NE 13 and Martin Luther King, I have seen that when children are put in a personalized, safe and structured learning environment with high expectations and strong support, they can and do achieve.

KIPP Reach has earned an A grade on the Oklahoma State School Report Card for the past four years. But these results are only an indicator of the progress we are making toward our ultimate goal — graduating KIPP students who are career and college ready. To date, 39 percent of students in our first KIPP class have graduated or are on track to graduate, which is above the national average for all students and four times higher than that of students from similar economic backgrounds.

But right now, not enough children in Oklahoma City have this opportunity to achieve. That’s why Concerned Clergy for Spiritual Renewal is working with civic leaders, community members and district officials to increase access to high-quality education for families in the northeast. Part of this effort is a proposal to expand KIPP Oklahoma City’s enrollment in the northeast to ultimately cover pre-kindergarten through high school. KIPP’s proposal will leverage the city’s investment in facilities by bringing current school buildings to full enrollment capacity.

And to make sure children in the northeast benefit most from KIPP’s expansion, we plan to give enrollment priority to neighborhood families who wish to attend a KIPP school.

Expanding the number of quality seats in northeast Oklahoma City public schools will offer new hope for families in the community, but charter schools can’t solve the challenges alone. That’s why KIPP has a plan to collaborate with the Oklahoma City school district, so their educators can learn about our approach to teacher and school leader coaching and development.

We saw through the Thunder’s playoff run this spring how a team that works together can surpass expectations, and I see that same team spirit and commitment to excellence every day at KIPP Reach. We know that great education — even more than a great season — can transform lives. By expanding enrollment in KIPP and opening the door to a partnership with Oklahoma City Public Schools, we will help more kids in the northeast to become champions too.

McDaniel is executive director of KIPP Charter College Preparatory School.