KIPP charter schools could be a great model for public schools.
In 1994, we founded KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, by starting one middle school in the South Bronx and one in Houston. Today, KIPP is a growing network of 66 public charter schools serving 17,000 children in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Eighty percent of our alumni from those first two schools have now gone on to college. More than 90 percent of KIPP students are children of color, and 80 percent qualify for the federal free or reduced-price meal program.
At KIPP, we believe that "the actual proves the possible." As Barack Obama and Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan begin to shape the policies that will drive the new administration, we would like to offer five concrete thoughts from the field on how to channel Mr. Obama's "Yes, we can" spirit into substantive education reform:
First, Obama should use his ability to inspire Americans to set a goal for our educational system akin to putting a man on the moon. Much as President John F. Kennedy did with the space program in the 1960s, Obama could establish a paradigm-shifting goal – ensuring that within 10 years every child will be on track to earning a college degree or completing a meaningful career training program. Achieving this goal would significantly enhance the opportunities our children will have over their lifetimes.
Second, perhaps the greatest lever for raising expectations and achievement for all children in America would be the creation of national learning standards and assessments. With KIPP schools operating in 19 states, we have seen how the maze of state standards and tests keeps great teachers from sharing ideas, inhibits innovation, and prevents meaningful comparison of student, teacher, and school performance. Rather than there being 50 different standards, Obama could unify the country around a common vision for the kind of teaching and learning our children need.