Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, now focuses all of his time on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has started a website, www.TheGatesNotes.com, to talk about what his foundation has been up to, and also to put down his thoughts. Recently, he mentioned the Algonquin title Work Hard, Be Nice in a post about KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) which he calls “one of the most promising examples of innovative thinking in American education.” (Read his whole article here.)
This isn’t the first time Bill Gates has talked about KIPP and Mathews’ book. He also talked about them at length during his 2009 TED speech – even giving everyone in the audience a copy of the book. (Watch his speech here.)
In the book, Jay Mathews writes about KIPP founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin–the two twenty-somethings who created the extremely successful fifth-grade experience which grew into KIPP. Today there are 66 KIPP schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia. KIPP schools incorporate what Feinberg and Levin learned from America’s best, most charismatic teachers: lessons need to be lively; school days need to be longer (the KIPP day is nine and a half hours); the completion of homework has to be sacrosanct. Chants, songs, and slogans such as “Work hard, be nice” energize the program.
Bill Gates wrote on his blog: “KIPP clearly has a huge affect on kids. Some people say they get the kids who are better to start with in terms of knowledge, motivation, or parents but this has been examined quite closely and if it is true it is a very modest difference relative to the surrounding schools. The KIPP kids are well below average coming in compared to the state averages almost everywhere. One example of KIPP’s success: while only 20 percent of low-income students in the U.S. attend college, the rate for former KIPP students is 80 percent.”