Program Profile: KIPP Through College

May 18, 2016

By Liz Glaser - Graduate Research Assistant

While many early awareness programs serve as supports to cities and schools, some schools design their curriculum with college awareness in mind; KIPP is one of those schools. In the KIPP Network, the college attainment goal is mission-critical to every aspect of school development. KIPP runs a program specifically focused on college attainment, called KIPP Through College (KTC). KTC functions in every region with KIPP, but perhaps is the most robust in New York City. I spoke with Jane Martinez Dowling, the Executive Director of KTC NYC to learn more about the KTC model and some of its successes.

KIPP is a charter network that began in 1994; it has now expanded to 183 schools nationally, serving prek-12. New York has 11 schools, with a robust KIPP Through College model that begins in eighth grade. College preparation begins as early as pre-kindergarten for many KIPP students; each incoming class is given a cohort name based on the year they’ll enter college (for example, The Class of 2016 got their name when they started kindergarten in 2004), and KTC provides the necessary supports for students to attain their college goals. The KTC model promises that students will be given extra support as soon as they graduate from eighth grade. The supports are mainly programming around an advising model, but they also track every student through college with a customized data that is useful for monitoring their progress and success through college. 

The advising aspect of KTC is the crucial element of programming. They have a 1:1 advising model, so every student is assigned someone, as they graduate from eighth grade, who follows them through college completion or six years out of high school. In New York, there are 1300 students with advisors; 16 full time staff each work with about 80 students. They meet monthly and their goals and objectives depend on the school calendar. For high school students, this means checking on application deadlines, scholarship deadlines, and FAFSA completion as the school year progresses. For college students,  the schedule means that in September, advisors ask students about midterm study plans, test preparation,and general check-ins. In November, advisors check on resumes,spring or summer internship applications, and finals preparation. Scheduling checkpoints around the academic calendar is KIPP’s method of ensuring that students are always prepared for the next step, but keep looking towards the final goals of high school and college graduation.KTCPlus is also a recent development, where other full-time KIPP staff, such as teachers or counselors, is trained to be KTC advisors for up to four students. This adds to the support as more adults are trained and prepared to help students through the transition to college. 

About 75% of students from KIPP middle schools move on to KIPP high schools, so the KTC model is integrated into their daily lives at the school. The KTC office is located right “around the corner” from the high school in NYC, and that placement was intentional; Ms. Dowling highlighted that the staff split time between working in the office and having direct contact with students – and the location helps the staff feel more connected to the larger school. Additionally, KTC helps ensure students are prepared academically and ready for tests, but also focus on family-wide initiatives that help bring students to college. There are regular Parent workshops, and some of them focus specifically on FAFSA. A KTC staffer sits down with every parent and family and completes the entire FAFSA together, which has resulted in a nearly 100% completion rate. About 88% of KIPP students qualify for free or reduced lunch, so many also qualify for financial aid packages. KTC also focuses on scholarships, aid, and understanding the importance of the right “match.” A good match, for KIPP, is a school that has the programs of interest for a particular student; has good enrollment, retention, and completion rates for students of all backgrounds; and is financially feasible. This means that students are encouraged to apply for scholarships and use the aid packages that schools design. Ms. Dowling noted that most students in the NYC area go on to CUNYs and SUNYs, and those are great matches; but plenty of students also attend more competitive universities and private universities across the country. The focus on match helps students to pick the schools that are right for them on a variety of levels, and to be intentional about what each of those aspects mean.

One important aspect of the KTC model is tracking; every student’s postsecondary progress and outcomes are measured and housed in a KTC database. By measuring progress for individuals and at the aggregate level, KTC is able to track their own progress and understand how each student is actually doing in their postsecondary journey.  KTC tracks cohorts on a six-year period, and the cohorts from 2003 until 2010 are persisting at 80%. The KIPP national goal is 75% college attainment, and New York City is on its way to reaching that goal; of the 14 cohorts since KTC began, 52% of college students have earned a degree - 44% have earned bachelor’s degrees and 9% have earned Associate’s. Since opening their own high school in 2009, persistence rates have increased to nearly 80%. These student completion rates are on par with the national average, and far above the completion rate for low-income, first-generation students. 

KIPP’s success is built on a college-going culture that begins as early as possible. When school staff, students, and parents all support the mission that every KIPP student and alumni will earn their postsecondary credentials, every action is designed to reach back to that goal. Utilizing KTC as a specific model within the KIPP network is a unique way to solidify college access programming, and its programming helps every student realize they have the support they need to graduate.

 



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