The KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching (Part One)

“Why do we need a KIPP Framework?”

The teammate asking the question was not using a nice or neutral tone.  Her frustration was understandable.  We spend far too much time re-inventing the wheel and it was easy to imagine thousands of dollars and hours being poured into a project whose end result could be accomplished with a $100 Amazon purchase of the Skillful Teacher and a few other books.  Her question was the same one I asked a few months earlier but now I had an answer.  I actually had four answers.

1. We teach in schools not classrooms.

2. We teach on a PreK-16 continuum.

3.  We believe joy is an essential part of education.

4.  We need a platform for sharing and innovation.

What do these arguments mean?

1.  We teach in schools, not classrooms.

This seems like a nonsense statement until you consider all the mindset shifts necessary to break away from the traditional vision of teachers as islands.  Many of the best and most comprehensive lists of teacher behaviors could be performed with little more than a cursory nod at your fellow staff as you stroll down the hall.  We wanted to name the observable and teachable behaviors that make certain teachers great teammates.  The purpose is not to transform all teachers into managers; it is to acknowledge that large chunks of a teacher’s work is outside the classroom with parents, fellow teachers, and leaders and to make developing these skills a transparent rather than mythical task.

This argument is not just a paean to the value of collaboration; it’s the challenge of Baldwin’s quote “the children are always ours, every single one of them.”  If we teach in schools and not classrooms then in matters how kids are in line and in the classroom down the hall and in the next grade.

2.  We teach on a Pre-K to 16 continuum.

Faced with the brutal facts that college completion is an exponentially harder and more important outcome than just college acceptance, our mission has shifted from to college to through college.  The change of preposition marks a profound change in our thinking.  KIPP began thinking that four years of strong middle school instruction was enough to permanently alter a child’s trajectory. Now we realize that the outcomes our kids deserve necessitate continuously strong teaching from the time our kids are four until they are eighteen.    An excellent KIPP classroom is not a catapult that sends a kid shooting off to college (and landing who knows where) but part of a bridge.  The excellent KIPP teacher knows what comes before him or her and the end point.

It’s a humble yourself moment and the end of the mythical master teacher.

3.  We believe joy is an essential to education

Joy is more than a tool for increased engagement.  Joy is the partner and not the antonym of rigor.  Joy is a means and an end.

Check out Kyle Shaffer and Natalie Webb talking about joy on KIPP Share

Even better check out this clip of unadulterated joy from Leyla Bravo’s class at KIPP Infinity.

4.  We need a platform for sharing and innovation.

The I-Phone unleashed thousands of programmers to share bite-sized, useful tools.  Suddenly you could find gluten free restaurants, solve equations,  and identify bird calls with your phone.  Right now a school leader in New Orleans is teaching an amazing PD session about questioning that isn’t easily shared with the principal in Jacksonville.  We hope the Framework becomes a common language for talking about extraordinary teaching and then facilitates a similar wave of problem-solving and sharing amongst KIPP’s teachers and leaders.  Ideally KIPP Share starts to feel like the app store where  problem-solving tools for improving teaching are shared, used, and revised to work even better.

This is intended to be a three part post about the KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching.  As always responses, feedback, and new ideas are welcome.


One Response to “The KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching (Part One)”

  1. Cristi Yanosky Says:


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