New KIPP Charter School Opening in the Fall Despite Some Community Opposition; There’s Still Time to Apply

A sign at a KIPP school in the Bronx. Photo by Leila Hadd.

By Carol Tannenhauser

A new KIPP charter school is opening in the Upper West Side’s school district this fall and is now accepting applications. The school will admit students through a lottery, but one designed to be “intentionally integrated,” Principal Joseph Negron said in an interview with West Side Rag. Called “KIPP Beyond,” the school was supposed to open last fall, but the pandemic postponed it.

Negron said that KIPP (which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program) wants the school to help remedy a long-running problem on the Upper West Side — school District 3 is racially and socioeconomically diverse but its schools are often segregated. District 3 includes the Upper West Side and parts of Harlem east of Morningside Park.

“We want our student body to look like the district,” Negron said.

KIPP initially discussed opening a school in 2018, at the same time that District 3 was initiating a new admissions process meant to diversify the schools. The new District 3 admissions process was designed to desegregate schools, prioritizing students from households who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, and those who score lower on state tests.

The pandemic has resulted in big changes for New York City public middle school admissions. Many of the screens that had been used by individual middle schools to evaluate their applicants — state tests, grades, attendance and behavioral records — have been eliminated in favor of a lottery system, beginning this year.

KIPP will accept 60% of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and 40% who do not qualify. Their goal is to accept 95 students, but they will lower that number if necessary to maintain the 60:40 ratio.

KIPP is a nonprofit network of charter schools known for helping students achieve academic success, including high test scores and strong graduation rates. Like some other charter networks, it has been criticized over issues like high teacher turnover, and its discipline practices — though it has vowed to make changes in some of those areas. Most students were remote-only in the fall, though the network opened up a hybrid option for K-12 starting last month.

The school faced stiff opposition from the Community Education Council District 3 (CEC 3), a parent group that’s similar to a school board.

The board of CEC3 said at the time that the new school would undermine its own efforts to desegregate middle schools. As students are pulled out of the traditional public school system to charter schools, education funding goes with them. CEC3 launched a petition against the school that got over 700 signatures. Among other issues, several District 3 schools are underenrolled and could face more problems if students head to charters. There are 17 traditional public middle schools in the district; KIPP will be the sixth charter.

“KIPP has a 25-year record in the public charter school movement,” Negron responded. “And for those 25 years we have taken kids via lottery. We know how to take an academically diverse group of kids and do right by all of them. That’s our experience. We’ve never applied screens to our student population.”

KIPP has also had disagreements with teachers unions — charters are often not unionized. Negron explained some of the differences between traditional public schools and charters like the new KIPP school.

“A basic difference is that, as a charter school, there is a contract in which you say you are going to run a certain program, achieve certain results, in exchange for a level of flexibility in what you’re able to do,” he said. “For example, we are going to have a slightly longer school day — from 7:55 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. — but it will incorporate elements that might be found in an after-school program. Our students will have the opportunity to take an elective four times a week. They’ll also have physical fitness every single day for a half hour, and recess for 20 minutes. And they’ll meditate for 15 minutes twice a day.”

KIPP Beyond will also have a social worker for 90 children, and two learning specialists for students with special needs.

But what Negron is pushing hardest is perhaps the rallying cry of charter schools: choice. “We are trying to provide families with an option they might not otherwise have. In a year of so much uncertainty, to feel like you have some power and choice over something is part of the reason why so many families are interested in our school.”

KIPP Beyond will share a building with the Harlem Hebrew Charter School, at 147 St. Nicholas Avenue, between W. 117th and 118th Streets. It is free and open to all. Unlike other district middle schools, it is still accepting applications, until April 1st.

“Applying to KIPP Beyond is a separate process that does not impact a child’s Department of Education middle school placement,” Negron concluded. “Families will find out about their child’s admission status to KIPP Beyond in mid-April, and their child’s middle school placement on a date yet to be determined. They will then have the opportunity to choose the school that’s best for them and their child. Families can go to to learn more and apply.

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. Mark Risman says:

      > Similarly, KIPP will accept 60% of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and 40% who do not qualify. Their goal is to accept 95 fifth-grade students, but they will lower that number if necessary to maintain the 60:40 ratio.

      This is illegal discrimination, plain and simple. It’s better that no one gets the seat even if there aren’t enough black & brown kids walking in the front door to keep some ratio on the proper side of modern PC ideology. How is this allowed?

      If your initial reaction is that I’m wrong and a racist, ask yourself: wouldn’t you be up in arms if their ratio was written the other way around?

      • ben says:

        I don’t think you are racist, per se. I think you are reading too much into the policy and making unnecessary tie-ins to race in this 60:40 make-up. Does the income correlate, to an extent, with race? Yes. But their goal, as written, isn’t about race. Don’t make everything about race when it doesn’t have to be. Yes the society is trending ‘woke’ but why you adding fuel to the fire???

        • Juan says:

          Because if you oppose policies that are defined by income rather than race, you are still called a racist. Which I agree is completely wrong. But that is unfortunately society today.

          I am generally a strong proponent of meritocracies rather than having all of these carve out programs, but if the programs are to exist, they should be based on income, not race. Unfortunately, there tends to be a large overlap, but race-based programs are insulting to the many highly successful minority families in this city.

        • LL says:

          It sounds like the goal IS about race. He talked about school desegregation. And i think because income is so closely connected to race, you can talk about income rather than race. It WOULD be illegal to seek 60% of children from say, Black families, but not from, say, families earning between 80 and 100,000 dollars.

          What i am curious about is: the goal is for the school to reflect the school district. Is the school district 60% low income?

          Also. ARE KIPP school actually diverse? From everything i have seen, they are not. They are really excellent schools.

      • RE says:

        This is similar to the “Black Lives Matter” and “All lives matter” debate. This is an attempt to level the playing field (equality) and give brown/black children an opportunity to achieve success via a quality education. The communities served are communities that need more, deserve more and will get more at KIPP.

    2. Eric says:

      “A basic difference is that, as a charter school, there is a contract in which you say you are going to run a certain program, achieve certain results, in exchange for a level of flexibility in what you’re able to do”

      As someone who does not have children and whose only connection to NYC public schools is that I received an excellent education from them 45 years ago, I realize that some may find my comments invalid.

      That said, my recollection is that when the charter school experiment was begun in NY the idea was that they would be places where educators could be given the freedom to try different ideas and techniques so that what worked could be incorporated into the public schools generally. A rising tide to lift all the boats as it were. It seems to me that what they have actually become is a kind of ‘parallel school system’ and they certainly were never intended to be a tool to alleviate segregation.

      Charters can be a tremendous tool to help the DOE see ways to be better but, in my opinion, that should be their goal. In a perfect world they would eventually help make the public schools so much better that they would put themselves out of business.

    3. Mark H says:

      For us (and for other parents we’ve talked to), it’s all about choice.

      This is an option that doesn’t exist in the district. As a District 3 parent, I am thrilled that we have this option as our daughter gets to middle school.

      To be able to send her to an academically rigorous school that reflects the diversity of the neighborhood is exactly what our family wants.

      • Verdi Square says:

        Just a quick plug for Mott Hall II, possibly the only public middle school that truly reflects the diversity of district 3!

    4. Upper West Side Parent says:

      Will they enroll a percentage of students with IEPs that reflects the district percentage?

      Also, seems like the timing is a bit off here. Aren’t all middle schools in the district doing away with screens this admission cycle?

      Lastly, looks like they are gaming the system a bit. Public middle schools start enrollment in 6th grade, KIPP is going to start enrollment in 5th grade.

      • UWS Parent & Teacher says:

        To respond to the questions you posed, I’ve been doing my research on this school and KIPP in general and…

        1. The KIPP schools in NYC seem to have about 20% of students with IEPs. That’s a little higher than the district average.

        2. As it says in the article, this school was supposed to open last year, before the DOE did away with middle school screens and the middle school lottery happening this year is only due to Covid. There is no indication that screens will be permanently removed.

        3. This school begins in 6th grade, not 5th, according to the website linked in the article.

        • Upper West Side Parent says:

          UWS Parent & Teacher – Thank you for the responses. Very helpful. With respect to Middle School screens, I agree that the DOE has said the removal is for this year due to COVID, but a part of me suspects they are gone for good. Time will tell.

    5. Honest Teacher says:

      Does anyone know any teachers that worked at KIPP?

      I know several. They work from 7am to 5pm. Between meetings and mandatory activities, these teachers burnout super quickly. There’s no Union.

      If you check, most of their teachers are NOT certified NYS teachers. They usually get their teachers from Teach for America…so these teachers are eager for experience; try out KIPP and then leave the education field.

      Talk to some charter school teachers…you’ll see

    6. 72RSD says:

      So glad to have a charter school inject some healthy vitality into the school district. Charters (mostly) work. Three cheers for more quality schools in our neighborhood!

    7. indep says:

      Charter schools can “counsel out” students who don’t get with the program, i.e., perform poorly academically and/or display behavior problems. These students then return to the traditional district schools that can’t reject them. Moreover, charter schools require parental engagement. Traditional public schools are powerless against uninvolved parents. Given the lottery system, students at charter schools are a self-selected population with engaged parents who will make the effort. Consequently, it’s comparing apples to oranges.

    8. JD says:

      Former KIPP teacher here; if I were to give any advice to anyone about working at at KIPP school it would be this: DON’T!!
      I have never been in a work environment as toxic as a KIPP School; they have absolutely no regard for their teachers well-being or safety. The article says you’d be working from 7:15-4:55, but that does not include all the pointless meetings and all the work they expect you to complete outside of school. The Principal should have said “our hours are from 7:15-4:55 in the school house, then an additional 3 hours when you get home.”
      Worst work experience of my life and the only job I ever quit.

    9. Janet Wasserman says:

      I have long been committed to the public school system – everywhere – as the best device for maintaining and promoting democracy, following a modernized version of John Dewey’s educational philosophy whose basic thesis is: The public school system is the cradle of democracy.

      That philosophy has been corrupted to the point where the public schools have become anti-democratic. I want our tax dollars to be used to restore and make better the public school system – primary school to high school. Fragmenting the public school system and creating many competing systems also fragments democracy further which we can ill afford. We need the charter school spirit in the public school system of the USA. And the public school system, like the military, should remain in firm civilian community control, with a highly trained (and supervised by the community) educational establishment to operate the system. Going the route of increasing numbers of private schools diminishes democracy and creates competing elites of every kind.

      There would have to be exceptions for religious schools (possibly others)but such exceptions should be kept to a strict minimum while still being part of the greater community and being kept inclusive with the greater community instead of excluded from it.

      Democracy is in terrible danger in our country at this moment in time. We should do everything within our power to nurture democracy, make it stronger, make it meet the principles of justice, fairness and equity. And start in the public school system in which so many educators – and the rest of us – see the seeds of democracy take root and grow.

      On a personal note: my entire lifetime of education took place in NYC’s public schools: elementary and high school; public college and university from the B.A. and M.A. to Ph.D. and J.D. Such a public school system is fundamentally democratic even with all the social ills it faces and tries to cope with. And it should be as academically rigorous (as a commenter put it) as any elite private prep school (basically undemocratic) which is what charter schools are trending toward.

    10. FrustratedPublicSchoolMom says:

      Is KIPP Beyond going to be open for in person learning 5 days a week? If so – I AM IN! I dont need any other info.

      • Upper West Side Parent says:

        It will depend on the number of students enrolled and the space they are working in. They will still have to comply with all federal, state and city guidelines with respect to social distancing, etc.

        While we all wish for 5 days in school learning, it has to be safe for students and administration

      • Juan says:

        Public schools will be open five days a week in the fall. If not, parents will have deBlasio and/or the union’s head on a platter.

        This obviously assumes continuing the current pace of vaccinations, reducing case counts, etc. but I think that is a fair assumption by September.

        We need to now start getting comfortable with getting rid of six foot separation, because that will be the key. And I think that will be reasonable. You can continue to require masks if that is what will make it more palatable.

    11. Jess says:

      I am looking at all these comments and the questions is is about new school or about the opportunity that is being offered to these kids. I am a KIPP Parent with IEP and getting service for my child taking about college which is instill in them from they enter the building. Throughout this pandemic when DOE didn’t have together these kids were learning. Give it a chance

    12. Linda Bennett says:

      My grandchildren attend KIPP INFINITY. It has been an awesome experience for both of them. Thank you for putting the light and desire for education back in my grandsons mine and heart. He was bullied by a teacher at Success Academy, he was bullied by three students at DREAM charter and nothing was done at either school, by those in Charge.
      Your teachers teach with such love,compassion, power and pride, they put pride in the children. The affirmations that the children speak over themselves are amazing. Your teachers are awesome human being.just awesome. Thank you. Thank you for making me better person also.