Richard Barth's Weekly Thoughts: Finding a WayByRichard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO
As I write this, August is about to begin. Every morning this week, I have been reminded of the Stockdale Paradox, that we must never confuse faith that we will prevail in the end, with the discipline to confront the most difficult facts of our current reality. And this is what I see unfolding across the KIPP Team and Family right now. I see all of us centered on the belief that we will find a way or make one for our 100,000+ KIPPsters, recognizing that each of us is now challenged to be more student-focused, more flexible, and more creative than at any point in the history of modern public education. We couldn’t ask for a stronger group of people to support students and families across the country.
This is really, really, really hard. And I also know, from talking with so many of you, that we are far better prepared to educate our kids this fall than we were last March thanks to so much preparation done by so many. This will take resources. Nationally, we cut our central budget by 20% this year, and since the end of May we have raised over $17 million to invest in technology for our KIPPsters to ensure that by early September each student will have a device for remote learning. We’ve also invested in mental health capacity, college persistence grants, and virtual content offerings like Zearn Math, KIPP Wheatley Online, and AP for All. Additionally, we will keep working to generate resources to support our students with their social, emotional, and academic well-being. This will challenge us to tap into our individual and collective ingenuity and commitment like never before. That is why some of our most experienced teachers are giving of themselves by recording the delivery of daily lessons so each one of our KIPPsters can benefit from the very best we have in our Team and Family. I have no doubt that, as a Team and a Family, we will make our way through this. I have no doubt that our mission, which we built together, will guide us:
“Together with families and communities, we create joyful, academically excellent schools that prepare students with the skills and confidence they need to pursue the paths they choose—college, career, and beyond—so they can lead fulfilling lives and build a more just world.”
I am excited to share a few updates with you, but before doing so I want to make one last point: at KIPP, we have always believed the work we do is not about one day, one week, or even one month in time. Ours is the work of a lifetime, work that is centered on our alumni leading fulfilling lives and building a more just world. In a moment like the one we are in today, it is inevitable that our time horizons feel compressed. But let’s all remember — at KIPP, we are the constant, not the variable. And we will be consistently here, for our KIPPsters, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and in September, and next September, and all Septembers beyond.
Thank you, each and every one of you, for all you do every day.
A Tour Around the Country…
KIPP DC gathered their nearly 1,200 staff members on Monday to virtually kick off their 20th school year. Highlights included a lunchtime keynote from DC native and New York Times best-selling author Jason Reynolds, as well as time spent in school teams aligning on the upcoming school year’s priorities and remote learning plans, along with operational updates related to COVID-19. The day concluded with welcome-back messages from current KIPP DC students, a virtual performance by a student and alumni choir, the rollout of KIPP DC’s 2025 strategic plan, and closing remarks by KIPP DC College Prep’s Class of 2021 president Jeremiah McCollum. The Class of 2021 at KIPP DC will be the first to have attended KIPP for their whole educational career since KIPP launched the early childhood program in in DC in 2007!
Atlanta held their “One Region Summit” earlier this week, during which 650 staff gathered virtually to connect, reflect and learn. The focus for this year’s summit was Equity Now, looking to build on lessons learned over the last 17 years to design and lead, with scholars and families, and schools that are equitable and identity-affirming. The day also featured writer and activist Clint Smith, who shared his expertise, read some of his poetry, and answered questions from KIPP Atlanta’s Team and Family. And in true Atlanta style, the team ended the day with an Instagram Listening Live Party with DJ Disco Kid (Christian Walker). Fun fact: Christian is the son of KIPP Vision Primary School Principal Terra Walker.
In Tennessee, KIPP was featured on Nashville Public Radio as one of the first charter school networks in the city to decide on an all-virtual start to the school year. As part of preparations, KIPP Nashville has put together packages of remote-learning supplies for students, including laptops and hot spots.
A New KTC Curriculum
With the support of the Moritz Family Foundation, KIPP is launching a new national college and career success curriculum. This will be a companion to the amazing work of our KIPP Through College counselors and directors, and is centered on racial justice and critical consciousness.
The curriculum is designed to help KIPPsters develop key socio-emotional skills and supplement existing counseling/Match work in regions by building students’ college knowledge and preparing them to achieve their highest career aspirations. It will also help students build professional skills—like resume writing, interviewing, pursuing internships and apprenticeships, and public speaking—as well as career-development knowledge and skills, including financial literacy, career laddering, networking, and building social capital. We will be launching the curriculum with 8 partner regions this year.
KIPP On Learning Podcast
For those of you who didn’t know: KIPP has a podcast! Once a month, Dave Levin and guest educators sit down to discuss teaching, learning, and the major issues affecting education in the US today.
In the latest episode, released last week, Dave was joined by Erin Trent Johnson—CEO, Coach, and founder of Community Equity Partners, and the Senior Advisor for The Equity Lab—and Kyra Mitchell, Chair of the NAACP National Youth Work Committee. They spoke about the ways in which systemic racism and anti-Blackness manifest and intersect inside and outside of the classroom. Kyra also shared her advice for Gen Z-ers interested in organizing and lending their voice to this historic movement for racial justice.
Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, gender, color, or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness and the reality is we’re all enduring a degree of stress caused by the current pandemic. While mental health is a public health concern for all Americans, Black, Indigenous, People of Color face unique stresses and systemic barriers. I want to share some resources on the KIPP blog for National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, which runs through the end of July. We have collected and shared some resources for BIPOC seeking mental-health support that addresses their specific needs. Please read and share with others.