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How the Five Pillars Impact Teaching at KIPP Delta

I will always teach in the best way I know how and will do whatever it takes for our students to learn.  I will always make myself available to our students and parents, and address any concerns they might have.  I will always protect the safety, interests, and rights of all individuals in the classroom.  This commitment is not only a commitment I have made, but a commitment that is shared through the walls and hallways of KIPP Delta.  KIPP schools share a set of operating principles known as the “Five Pillars,” and they drive the work that I do on a daily basis.  These pillars – high expectations, choice and commitment, more time, power to lead, and focus on results – help send the message to our students that we will do whatever it takes to see them to and through college.

The high expectations that we have for our students stem from our belief that “ALL students WILL learn.” We hold every child to the same academic and behavioral expectations.  Students live our motto, “Work hard. Be nice.” because they understand the rewards and consequences that come through that behavior.  Every KIPPster, on the first say of school, learns the year in which they will go to college. The goal of getting every student to and through college is not a simple one, thus it is imperative that students, teachers, and parents are held to high expectations along the way.

This year I had the privilege of doing a commitment meeting with one of our new members of the class of 2018.  During this meeting, I could tell that the new KIPPster was on the fence about whether or not we were the right school for her.  I addressed her questions and asked her to tell me why she wanted to be at KIPP.  She responded that she wanted to stay out of trouble and go to college.  Her family and I discussed that the expectations set out for her would be challenging, but they would be worth it.  When she read through her commitment to excellence that afternoon and listened to me read mine, she became aware that we were making this choice together, as a Team & Family, and her commitment grew stronger. 

I can talk about how our pillar of “more time” is the catalyst for KIPP’s success, but what comes to mind first is the fact that this pillar is what I love most about my job. Longer classes, phone availability, and experiences outside of the classroom allow me to build stronger relationships with my KIPPsters.  Additionally, knowing that my students have more time in the classroom makes me certain that they will be ready to compete amongst their peers for entrance into the top high schools and colleges.

Within the KIPP network, school directors are given the power to lead their own schools as they see fit. This gift of autonomy allows school directors to make the best decisions possible when hiring teachers, crafting schedules, creating electives, implementing behavior plans, and planning school celebrations. But the power to lead doesn’t stop in the administrator’s office – it continues to trickle down. This year, I became a Reading Curriculum Fellow through the KIPP Foundation. Throughout the year, I will have the opportunity to pilot reading specific unit plans and assessments, and then provide KIPP Foundation with my feedback. This process will allow KIPP to create strong national resources for all middle school reading teachers to use. The skills and knowledge that I gain through this power to lead will not only improve my abilities, but also impact my colleagues.

Last, but certainly not least, is a pillar that we discuss daily at KIPP – focus on results. Nothing is more powerful than data when it comes to holding high expectations and ensuring that students are performing on or above grade level. By constantly tracking results on assessments, from mastery on daily exit tickets to annual standardized test results, we can determine what each student needs to be college-ready.

At the end of the day, that is the question that matters most: are my students on the pathway to college?  The Five Pillars of KIPP are the essential operating principles that ensure our students are climbing the mountain to and through college. I use these principles to guide the work that I do because they send these four important messages to my students:  (1) This is important; (2) You can do it with hard work; (3) I will not give up on you; and (4) We will help each other. 

If you are a journalist or a member of the media and have an inquiry, please contact:

Carissa Godwin
Chief of External Affairs