KIPP began in 1994 with a powerful idea: to help children develop the knowledge, skills, character, and habits they need to succeed in college and build a better tomorrow for their communities.
Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin started KIPP in a Houston district classroom with 47 fifth-graders. As fifth grade teachers in Houston’s Third Ward, Mike and Dave saw the need for high-quality college-preparatory instruction, and developed the KIPP model to help meet that need. The core of KIPP’s model was the Five Pillars of High Expectations, Choice and Commitment, More Time, Power to Lead, and Focus on Results.
The following year, Mike and Dave opened two KIPP middle schools serving grades 5-8, one in Houston and one in New York City. By 1999, these original KIPP public charter schools were among the highest-performing schools in their respective communities.
In 1999, KIPP was featured on 60 Minutes, increasing the schools’ national reputation. This led to Mike meeting Scott Hamilton, who was working with Don and Doris Fisher, founders of the Gap, on their philanthropic strategy. Don and Doris tasked Scott with identifying education-based efforts that had impressive impacts and the potential to be scaled up nationally. And that is exactly what Scott saw in KIPP.
With the help of Scott’s wife Stacey Boyd, Dave’s sister Jessica Levin, and KIPP Academy Houston teacher Elliott Witney, Scott, Mike, and Dave began creating a plan for turning KIPP into a national network of schools. The group focused their plan on finding, recruiting, and developing excellent leaders for every KIPP school. Don and Doris gave it their full support.
In 2000, the KIPP Foundation was officially established to recruit and train outstanding school leaders to open and run new KIPP schools. The first wave of KIPP replication middle schools opened in 2002. In 2004, KIPP opened its first elementary and high schools, paving the way to becoming a full PreK-12 school system. Richard Barth, the KIPP Foundation’s current CEO, took the reins in 2005 and has led KIPP’s growth ever since.