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Lee Glazer
Date Published: 
October 01, 2006
    KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) is a national chain of charter schools that targets low-income Black and Latino communities. Spurred on by more than $40 million from Gap clothing store founders, Donald and Doris Fisher, KIPP has begun an ambitious expansion plan to create geographic clusters of KIPP schools—what one KIPP official called “city-states”—in a number of urban areas, including Washington, DC. Students go to school for 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, and in the summer. KIPP is touted by the likes of Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey as an exemplary educational model for children of color.

Being “KIPP-notized” is how KIPP officials describe orientation into the school’s culture. The process is illustrated below through selected excerpts from the 2005-2006 Parent-Student Handbook of the KIPP-Key Charter School in Washington, DC (

The Paycheck System
The paycheck system will be used to monitor behavior and homework on a daily basis. Each child is given a paycheck weekly… The [deduction] sections on the paycheck are:

    Attendance: After 8:00 YOU’RE LATE! If a child is late they will lose the attendance money for that day, if they are absent they cannot make any money all day.
    Citizenship: Poor behavior observed by any staff member is marked by a slash (/); once a child has two slashes forming an X they have lost the money for citizenship for that day.
    On-Task: Students can also get slashes if they are off task or disruptive in class.
    Homework: A child will receive an X for homework if any part or piece is missing from any class or it is not done well…
    Uniform: If a student’s uniform shirt is un-tucked, or they are not following the dress code, this box will be marked.
    Bathroom Policy:The hand signal for a student who needs to use the bathroom will be to raise his or her hand in a fist. Students are allowed to use the bathroom at the teachers’ discretion and are encouraged to go during independent work time.

Defining School Procedures

All students, teachers, and parents will sign the KIPP DC: KEY Academy Commitment to Excellence Contract and the KIPP DC: KEY Academy Non-negotiable Expectations…During summer school the classes focus heavily on acclimating students and parents to school procedures and discipline. During the regular school year the children also attend a KIPP class that is taught by the Principal, Vice Principal, or another staff member where discipline, organization, and procedures are reviewed on a regular basis.

The Bench (In-School Suspension)
In School Suspension is used when a child continues to misbehave or disregards the expectations outlined in the Commitment to Excellence Contract or the Non-negotiable Expectations. At KIPP DC: KEY Academy we call it, “The Bench”. While on the Bench we hope to remove all distractions so that the child can focus strictly on academics…We use the term “Benched” to show the child that they are still a part of the team, however, they are not playing in the game. For example, while on the bench the student will attend and participate in every class, but they are not allowed to talk to their teammates. They are however allowed to talk to teachers and are responsible for all class work and homework assigned…[Examples of Disciplinary Infractions Resulting in Benching include]:

    Two incomplete homework assignments in one week
    Not returning paycheck, tests or quizzes signed
    Teeth sucking
    Eye rolling
    Using the bathroom without permission
    Not responding to “All Call Clap”
    Having a temper tantrum
    Going to the store before or after school