Richard Barth's Weekly Thoughts: Back to School Updates

ByRichard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO

I want to start with gratitude. We are facing unprecedented challenges, and I am in awe of the incredible work that all of our educators and staff are putting in to make this school year as supportive and rigorous as it can be. And I especially want to send as much love as possible to our tech and operations teams today! Over the last few days I’ve been checking in and hearing story after story of how our operations and tech teams are heroes — we are now providing technology to over 100,000 children and their families. In some regions, our operations and tech teams have worked through 400 or 500 help desk tickets in a matter of days. And in many regions, our teams are doing home visits to set up Wi-Fi so students can learn remotely without any obstacles. You are truly embodying our mission of working side-by-side with families and communities!

This week marks the start of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month. Forty percent of KIPP students identify as Latinx, and Latinx students are the majority of our student body in 6 regions. We join teachers like Stacie Alvarez from New Jersey’s KIPP THRIVE Academy, who posted this video to celebrate her Dominican background, saying, “my family has taught me so much of the beauty and the power that comes from our people and I am excited and proud to celebrate that this month with you.” We’ll be celebrating by featuring inspirational Latinx leaders and influencers on social media and via our blog, as well as dedicating the next KIPP On Learning podcast to discussing the impact of the Latinx vote. Please join us in the celebration and be sure to share with us what you are up to with your KIPPsters and families!

Back-to-School Updates!


It’s all hands on deck in Massachusetts when it comes to tech assistance for families. Regional leaders and assistant principals, along with the tech team, collaborated in answering 400 calls and emails from families on the first day of school, and resolved most issues within 24 hours. Massachusetts has also launched Family University, a series of online sessions to help families prepare for online learning. The first session took place this past Monday and focused on training families to use the Canvas digital platform. Sessions are being recorded and shared online for those who cannot participate live. For more information and future Family University session topics, visit this page.


More than 6,400 students across 15 schools have been picking up books, work packets, and school supplies to support online learning throughout the month of September. NYC has extended their summer food pantry hours through the end of this month, with pickups near KIPP schools across New York City. And starting in October, NYC will be launching a Learning Center in the Bronx, where students will participate in virtual classes at a supervised, socially-distanced location.


KIPP has joined One Family LA, a coalition of over 30 community organizations in the Los Angeles area, to raise funds to support families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, our KIPP schools in SoCal, in partnership with One Family LA, have distributed funds of $250 or $500 to more than 100 families. Check out their blog post about this work, “KIPP SoCal is Community.

Excellence in Math Instruction — KIPP Learns With Zearn

I want to give a special shout-out this week to our teachers at the 56 KIPP schools that are implementing Zearn—a Eureka Math-aligned curriculum and online instructional platform. The KIPP Foundation is leveraging the Opportunity Fund to support regions by matching funding for Zearn accounts and training. And for KIPP regions using their K-5 content, Zearn has generously offered access to pilot content in grades 6 and 7—materials that are not yet available publicly!

What is most exciting is that KIPP schools using Zearn are collaborating in a community of practice to set shared goals, learn from each other’s successes, problem-solve around shared challenges, and improve student learning together. Thank you to the incredible teachers and leaders across our network from NorCal to North Carolina working hard to ensure students have an academically excellent math experience in spite of COVID-19.

Congrats Shana Ford, Executive Director, KIPP Minnesota

We are thrilled to announce Shana Ford as our new ED of KIPP Minnesota! Shana has over 20 years of experience within the private, non-profit, and public charter school sector. She is a native Minnesotan and champion for racial equity, who has recently led efforts to provide equitable opportunities to students and families in North Minneapolis. Deep gratitude to KIPP Minnesota’s executive leadership team—Katie Hayes Antelo, Sarah Beraki, and Becky Gallt—who have done a tremendous job leading the organization in the interim. Shana’s first day with KIPP will be October 1st. Please join me in welcoming Shana to the KIPP Team and Family!

To wrap up today’s message, I want to highlight KIPP voices that are getting heard on the national stage!
Check out this op-ed by KIPP alum and Spelman student Garilyn Vause, highlighting the connection between charter schools and HBCUs.

Kindergarten teacher Andrea Jemmott, from KIPP VOICE Elementary in Jacksonville, participated in a CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Families, sharing advice on how to navigate back-to-school challenges. Andrea is featured in “Making the Most of Remote Learning.”

And Kinyette Henderson, a middle school ELA teacher from KIPP Newark, participated in a New York Times virtual panel discussion on the future of American cities. Kinyette and two other teachers discussed how students are being affected by the lack of resources in their communities—her segment starts at 2:57.