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Celebrating 10 Years of Working Hard and Being Nice

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Attending the KIPP 10th Annual School Summit last week gave me the chance to reflect on my early work with KIPP, its intersection with my organization, the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), and what the future holds for both.

Between 2004 and 2006, my then Massachusetts-based organization, Massachusetts 2020, had helped to create both public and private grant programs to expand learning programs for high-poverty students. I was eager to see the children living in the city where I reside, Lynn (a city located north of Boston with high child poverty rates), benefit from these opportunities. But in a series of meetings it became clear that the district was not yet in a position to embrace the level of reform required by the funders or the state. Around that same time, Massachusetts 2020 was completing a study of schools serving high-poverty students in the northeast that had expanded time to accelerate student achievement. As part of the study I had visited the KIPP Academy in South Bronx, New York and interviewed Dave Levin. I was impressed and, soon after that visit, I met one of the Bronx KIPP Academy teachers -- Josh Zoia -- who had moved to Massachusetts to open the first KIPP school in the state. Josh invited me to join the KIPP Lynn Board of Directors and I gladly accepted.

While my organization's mission remains focused on supporting traditional district schools in partnership with union leaders, I knew that serving on the board of one of the KIPP schools would help me reach two goals: helping a group of Lynn children prepare for success in higher education and life and informing our now national organization's school reform work. Both goals have been achieved. KIPP Lynn students have posted exceptional results and last year NCTL released Time Well Spent which features KIPP successes among 30 high performing, high-poverty district and charter schools. KIPP Heartwood Academy was so inspiring we put together a short video to capture the school's work. I was particularly impressed with the KIPP alumni who spoke at the Summit and it reinforced NCTL's positive experience hosting KIPP high school student interns over the summer.

The now 125 KIPP schools serving more than 39,000 students are showing impressive results in part because KIPP offers students roughly 60 percent more school time per year. President Clinton remarked at the Summit how KIPP has been able to replicate excellence and he reflected upon the importance of the KIPP model's "more time on task." It was interesting to hear speakers from Louisiana, Charlotte, and Houston describe how KIPP's success has led other schools in their area (both district and charter) to implement reforms, including expanded school time. The exciting news is that the movement to expand school time is accelerating -- from Houston to Boston to New Orleans to Chicago to Denver. KIPP is not the only reason this is happening, of course -- the Obama Administration, Congress, the Ford Foundation, the AFT Innovation Fund and many others are pushing for more and better learning time.

So what does this all mean for NCTL's future work with district schools? As another KIPP Summit speaker, NYT columnist and author Tom Friedman urged "more and better education is necessary. Everyone will have to find their extra." If we want to stay internationally competitive and help our high-poverty students develop the skills necessary for success, most urban districts are going to have to accelerate improvements and offer a higher quality, broader educational experience than they are now and NCTL is gearing up to support them with that challenge.