Parent Spotlight: Michelle Davis

From left: Miracle, Kanya, Nypree, and Michelle 

From left: Miracle, Kanya, Nypree, and Michelle 

     When asked "Why KIPP?" Michelle explains that KIPP is the first school and still only school in Minneapolis that promotes college like she does. If Michelle had the chance to go to KIPP schools throughout her primary, middle, and high school, she would go all 13 years because she knows that it would have kept her on track to reaching her full potential. She believes that this is something that a lot of the schools in North Minneapolis lack.

     When asked what her "WHY" is, Michelle replied, "My why is equity - I think everybody should have equity and access. Everyone will have better educational opportunities which will lead to better housing, jobs, and a secure life. I want to help bring resources to families in order for them to have equitable opportunities." Michelle is now a full-time student at Minneapolis Community & Technical College studying community development. She is excited to apply her new knowledge in a way that advances equity in Minneapolis.

     Michelle would like to leave words of advice and encouragement to students in and beyond KIPP North Star: "You are your biggest fan and supporter. Greatness doesn't come easy - work hard for what you want. Be what you want."

KIPP Students Making Strides

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Providing Safe, Structured, and Nurturing Environments is one of KIPP's core components and is paramount to ensuring KIPP students are successful. Teachers and staff work hard each day to make this possible. One new 6th grader exemplifies this need and the impact. This fall she started with poor school attendance. During the first four months of school, she was absent ten days and tardy seven days. The office manager, Mrs. Jackson, worked with her to develop independent systems to be on time. Her science teacher, Mrs. Javore, noticed that she started to become more invested in KIPP's system of tracking "Glows and Grows" behavior. She realized that being at school on time is an easy way to earn the "Glows" that led to privileges she craved, like attending "Zest Fest." As her absences decreased, her classroom engagement grew. Mrs. Javore notes that she is now "more willing to make mistakes and more willing to accept my feedback." She performed in the 19th percentile nationwide in science this fall, but caught up to grade level (53rd percentile) by midyear, based on MAP scores.

For additional impact stories please check out these featured articles about two KIPP MN alumni.

Malcolm, a first year student at The Breck School
Lexi, a first year student at Jackson State University

Your support is helping young people like these KIPPsters become their best selves through a high quality education.

Performing Arts and KIPP Primary

The Jackson State University kindergarten class performed to R. Kelly's World's Greatest.

The Jackson State University kindergarten class performed to R. Kelly's World's Greatest.

The vision for our new primary school details a robust enrichment program that provides opportunities for students to grow in many different ways, and to dig deeper into interests beyond academic instruction. We launched our school with a commitment to the performing arts, delivered by a highly qualified teacher who is passionate about giving urban students early and consistent involvement with the arts. We are very fortunate to have hired, with your support, Emily Ban, an alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and former education manager at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts as our founding dance teacher. Midway through the school's first year, the profound impact of providing of daily dance instruction is evident. Students are learning to solve problems creatively through improvisation and to compose their own imaginative choreography. Ms. Ban has significant connections in the local dance community and big dreams for developing a high-quality dance education program.

Over the last several months, Ms. Emily has been working with her students through a collaborative creative process to create an original dance routine. During initial sessions, students spent time thinking about "what are you good at?" Each student contemplated their own unique skills, interests, and abilities and then drew pictures of themselves performing their skills. Some of the things our kindergarten and 1st graders believe they are good at include: fishing, dancing, hugging, reading, making art, swimming, and adding numbers. Next, Ms. Emily shared the skills with each class and students spent time improvising to show with silent body motion how to perform each activity. She then videotaped the students and studied the footage to assemble the motions into a choreographed dance. "Students were happy with the project because they knew they contributed and that the performance was about them. They felt validated not just for co-creating the routine, but appreciated for their many talents," Ms. Emily commented. The result was an impressive, passionate, and joyful performance at the Winter Family Night held last week at the school. Video can be viewed on our Facebook page.

At KIPP, we believe that arts education plays a crucial role in helping students learn creativity, discipline, and teamwork. With your partnership, we are able to provide additional opportunities for all our students to excel, explore, and experience the arts. 

Partner Spotlight: ACES

This fall KIPP joined forces with ACES to provide afterschool programming at KIPP North Star Academy. Now KIPPsters benefit from the 22-year-old program that provides intentional, project-based curriculum and learning experiences that bring together sports, math, and social-emotional learning for low-income students in grades 4-8 in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Most recently, KIPPsters went on a field trip to Winter Park, the MN Vikings' practice facility in Eden Prairie. The event was co-sponsored by 3M and focused on STEM education. KIPPsters were welcomed by Vikings punter Jeff Locke who introduced the topics of velocity and mass. After a brief video, students participated in running drills and timed their sprints at various distances. Then the group reconvened and focused on math to calculate velocity, mass, and energy. The event wrapped up with a behind the scenes tour of the weight room and locker room. There is nothing better than combining learning with fun and exercise with a professional athlete!

Gratitude - KIPP Career Day Volunteers

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Thank you to our terrific volunteers who joined KIPPsters for the annual KIPP Career Day. We had representatives from US Trust, Microsoft, PwC, Ford Motor Company, Coldwell Banker Burnet, Target, HealthPartners, Riley Hayes, CBRE, Blake School, and MN Chamber of Commerce. Students heard about the various college paths available, career options, and considerations other than salary (work life balance, benefits, etc.). KIPPsters benefit greatly from these conversations as they learn the range of opportunities a great education will afford them in the future. 

Opportunities Abound at KIPP

Stephen and a classmate sampled a cucumber before loading garden produce in the bags to bring home to their families.

Stephen and a classmate sampled a cucumber before loading garden produce in the bags to bring home to their families.

Stephen is a 5th grader at KIPP North Star Academy and an eager, engaged learner. He and his classmates have enjoyed an action packed fall at KIPP. This year Ms. Bender's 5th grade class became the proud stewards of the KIPP School Garden. This responsibility provides a variety of learning opportunities for KIPPsters including science, nutrition, and math. Another exciting fall adventure was the one night camping staycation on the KIPP campus. KIPPsters slept in tents, cooked out, and solidified relationships with classmates and teachers as we launch the school year. Stephen says he is "very happy" at KIPP. He loves that he is able to experience new subjects like science, participate in wilderness adventures, and rely on teachers who care. Math is his favorite subject, specifically long division because he "feels good when I solve a problem and I know how to check my work! I used to get frustrated in Math but Ms. Bender helped me and then I began to trust myself and believe that I can do it. I just never give up!" 

KIPP Primary Readers Shine

Ms. Hazen works with a small group while other KIPPsters work independently.

Ms. Hazen works with a small group while other KIPPsters work independently.

Literacy is a major focus at KIPP North Star Primary and teachers are utilizing a nationally acclaimed literacy assessment called STEP to teach reading. The first STEP assessment was conducted for our kindergarten and 1st grade students in September. The results were dim - 100% of the students were below grade level! In fact, these results highlighted the need for KIPP and why our work is so important. This week, teachers are finishing the second round of STEP assessments and early results are impressive. T.J., a first grade KIPPster is a perfect example of tremendous growth. At the beginning of the year, T. J. was at a pre-reading level (pre-kindergarten) and in eight short weeks he grew three steps to a beginning of 1st grade level. School Principal Amanda Dahm attributes this magnitude of growth to the co-teaching model, which allows for small group instruction and individualized teaching as well as high expectations for all students. Amanda explains, "Our co-teaching model is two teachers actively teaching throughout the day. It is not a lead and assist model whereby one teacher performs the instruction and the other assists with behavior management. Anytime you walk into a primary classroom you will see two teachers actively engaged with students in the learning process."

Partnerships to Support our Students

An astounding 97% of KIPP North Star Academy students are eligible for federal lunch programs. Through the federally funded National School Lunch Program, students receive breakfast and lunch on school days, but many kids go home Fridays with a scarcity of food for the weekend. Through our partnerships with The Sheridan Story, we are able to provide weekend meals for our students. A generous donation from CarVal Investors provides funding for all interested KIPP students to bring home a bag of food each weekend. Every Friday, School Social Worker Becky Reichel distributes the bags (including grains, vegetables, fruit, and protein) to student classrooms. We are grateful to Sheridan Story for their support and commitment. Ms. Reichel points out, “The Sheridan Story is an invaluable resource for our students and their families. They help relieve some of the stress and worry our families face when students aren't able to access school meals on the weekends.”

University of Minnesota's Science for All Program

Last year our 8th grade science teacher Heidi Smith, established a wonderful collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Science for All Program. These seven graduate students visit KIPP every other week to help our students cultivate an appreciation for evidence-based science and to promote interest in STEM careers. The specific lessons conducted at our school are posted on their website, all of which are structured to help students identify pertinent questions, conceive plausible hypotheses, and develop appropriate experiments. With funding from a Boston Scientific grant, KIPP students participated in a year-end field trip to the University’s Polymer Laboratory which was an amazing on-campus experience for our students. We intend for this to be a long-term partnership and it is already having significant impact as these energetic graduate students mentor and inspire our KIPPsters. 

Fisher Fellowship - A yearlong training to be the best School Leader possible

At KIPP, we believe leadership is paramount to creating a great school environment for students, families, and staff. To ensure we have the best school leaders, KIPP invests heavily in professional development for its rising stars.

Amanda Markowitz, former KIPP North Star Academy science teacher, has been selected as one of 16 national Fisher Fellows in the highly selective year-long program for developing KIPP school founding principals. During the 10 weeks of residency, Ms. Markowitz spent time in high quality schools across the country including KIPP schools in Houston, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, as well as other charter management organizations such as Uncommon Schools and Harlem Success Academies. It was at these schools that she was able to observe excellence in instruction, use of relevant resources, and effective infrastructure. During cohort retreats, Ms. Markowitz participated in programming with other Fisher Fellows from across the country. Through these collaborative sessions, participants learned from their colleagues, shared resources, and networked. She has also been working to develop her School Design Plan - the playbook by which Ms. Markowitz will build her school including the mission of the school, the recruitment and development of talent, the culture, and sustainability. Through an iterative process, Ms. Markowitz refined her plan with the support and feedback of an experienced educator who opened her own successful KIPP school.

While Ms. Markowitz is benefiting immensely from the fellowship and focused support of the KIPP Foundation, she said the highlight of her Fellowship year has been meeting potential students and families locally as she conducts open houses and attends community events in an effort to recruit kindergartners for her school. “I am most looking forward to this fall when our team of kindergarten teachers kick off the school year and provide high quality instruction every single day!”

Charter schools receive federal funding for start-up, but the needs are always greater than the funding provided. Part of Ms. Markowitz’s vision for KIPP North Star Primary includes a library in each classroom and a school-wide lending library. She has amassed wish list of books for her entering kindergartens at Amazon.com where KIPP supporters are able to give the gift of reading to our newest and youngest KIPPsters. 

KIPP is unique in this preparation; no other charter organization provides/requires such an in-depth and comprehensive investment in the development of its leaders. We believe the education of our students is worth the time and money to dedicate an entire year for the sole purpose of establishing and refining the vision of the new school and the excellence of its leader.

The opening of KIPP North Star Primary is an important milestone for KIPP Minnesota. “After eight years serving 5th – 8th grade students we are ready for the next phase of growth and are anxious to welcome our incoming kindergartens,” Executive Director Alvin Abraham commented. “It has been an exciting journey as Amanda has grown and evolved with the conceptualization of her school. While we continue to miss her in the classroom, we are confident she will be an inspiring and impactful school leader.”

Who supports your path to college?

KIPP alumni pose with North Star Academy principal Luwam Arefe (back row, left) and KTC Director Becky Gallt (center, blue shirt).

KIPP alumni pose with North Star Academy principal Luwam Arefe (back row, left) and KTC Director Becky Gallt (center, blue shirt).

KIPP North Star Academy’s first class of 8th graders are now seniors in high school and Becky Gallt, Director of KIPP Through College (KTC) is working individually with each of them to determine post-graduation plans. For most of our alumni, college is that next step. She builds on the input from families and guidance counselors to ensure students are applying to the right mix of colleges. Through a carefully planned process, Ms. Gallt and her students identify appropriate college matches, apply for fee waivers, complete applications, write essays, and wait for acceptances. So far our alumni have received 20 acceptances and more arrive each week!

Since many of our alumni will be the first in their families to attend college, they need additional support to navigate that challenging path of college application and matriculation. That is where KTC comes in. Like no other school in the Twin Cities, KIPP walks with each alumnus through the college application and matriculation process, and coaches/encourages persistence along the way.

Lexi, who attended KIPP from 5th-8th grades, is now a senior at De La Salle High School and works part-time at Ameriprise through a Genesis Works program. Last fall she completed ten college applications. Lexi relied on the dedicated one-on-one time she spent with Ms. Gallt, laboring every Tuesday and multiple Saturdays at KIPP to complete her applications and fine-tune her essays. She explained, “Ms. Gallt helped me find good college fits and pushed me to apply to colleges that were a challenge.” Lexi has already been accepted to Texas Southern University and Jackson State University and is waiting to hear from the others. Lexi and Ms. Gallt continue to meet to work on scholarship applications. “Ms. Gallt is very motivating. She builds up your confidence and she really instilled in me a belief that I can do anything I want to do. Plus, my mom is my constant guide and support. She encourages me to follow my dreams.”

We invite you to join us March 15 as we take an in-depth look at the KTC program and how we are changing the life trajectory of our students. Details to come.