Mike Feinberg, Co-Founder of the KIPP Network of Charter Schools visits India

by on August 16, 2012

We at Central Square Foundation, believe in creating strong networks to inspire vibrant exchange of ideas and learn from education reform movements across the world. We had the opportunity to host Mike Feinberg, Co Founder and CEO, KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), the largest charter school system in the US, on his weeklong trip to India last week.

Mike firmly believes that “there are no shortcuts” to ensure that young children have ample opportunities to do in this world whatever they wish to do.

For Mike and his co-founder Dave, it’s been a long journey from when they first started back in 1994 while still in their 2nd year at the Teach For America programme. From two schools in year 2000, KIPP has today grown to 125 schools serving 41,000 children in the US, all from low income families. The idea was not only to build great charter schools but also to show what is possible overall, in public school education.

Mike was greatly enthused to come to India and share not only his experiences but also his learnings with us. During his short stay, Mike visited several low cost private schools in both Delhi and Mumbai. In Mumbai, he spent almost three days at 3.2.1 Schools and Akanksha. Both these organisations have sent their school/ teacher leaders to the KIPP School Leadership Program for training. Having thus been exposed to KIPP’s high performing culture, these organisations have set a new standard for themselves. Speaking of 3.2.1, Mike says,”the neat thing is because they’re entrepreneurial, they’re going to take our systems and improve them. I can’t wait to see what Gaurav Singh does at 3.2.1.”

Mike very generously shared with us the Five Key Pillars of KIPP’s philosophy that run across all their schools in the US:

  1. High Expectations – Students, parents, teachers and staff, at every level, must create a culture of high achievement. In fact, this culture must be prenatal!
  2. Choice & Commitment – Everyone must make a commitment to school and to each other to put in the time and effort required to achieve success.
  3. More Time – This means kids would spend more time on task, an extended day, week, and year in the classroom!
  4. Power to Lead – The power to decide who teaches in that school building and who does not, how to allocate the budgets etc. now rests with the school principal. Give the principal complete autonomy and in return, hold him accountable for the students’ learning.
  5. Focus on Results – Today 90% of KIPP kids from Grade 8 are going to college. We need to focus on what is it that we are doing daily, weekly, monthly, annually to measure their progress and to ensure the kids are climbing the mountain at the right pace to get them where they want to be.

Mike also enjoyed the interactions he had with leading educationists in New Delhi and Mumbai. Clearly, there are parallels between the US and the Indian public school education system. The US has 6000 charter schools serving over 2 million children. India, with 240 million of her children in 1.3 million schools, too has to deal with a rotting public school system albeit of a much larger scale. Mike stressed the need for us to create greater choice for poor parents within the government school system. Another key area he stressed we need to focus on is school leadership training.

Mike welcomed Central Square Foundation’s role in helping create both a new marketplace and also a new set of beliefs for what is possible in public school education in our country. He urged us to constantly “raise the bar” in our expectations of all our children. As at KIPP, we must believe not all our children can learn, but that they WILL learn.

About Mike Feinberg:
Mike co-founded KIPP in 1994 and he is widely recognised as one of the pioneers of the education reform movement in the US.  KIPP has 125 schools across the country and serves 39,000 children.  It has redefined the education of children from low-income backgrounds in the US by demonstrating high levels of learning outcomes and setting a new bar for the quality of education.