Podcast: Richard Barth on Building A National School Brand

After helping Teach for America to get a good start, Richard Barth went to work for a school developer. In 2005 he joined a foundation supporting a fledgling charter school network called KIPP. Barth has facilitated the growth from 40 schools to 224 schools serving almost 100,000 students nationwide with 12,000 alumni in college.

When he joined, KIPP was a loose network of amazing school leaders doing it on their own with no infrastructure. In the last decade, KIPP has added curriculum, guidance, technology, and regional school supports making KIPP the first national school network.

The network started as a middle school program but quickly expanded to K-12 to maximize impact. By the end of 2020, 90% of middle schools will be filled with students from KIPP elementary schools. Barth said, “The data is clear, KIPP prepared students to graduate at a rate 20 points higher.”

Barth and the KIPP team have learned a lot about getting young people into and through college. They learned about the importance of helping student leave high school with passion, purpose and a plan.

In the early days KIPP relied on “super-talented people figuring it out,” said Barth. As they grew, they added teaching resources. Today about 80% of KIPP teachers use the same English and math curriculum. Many of the schools use PLTW (see feature). The common adoption of content “allows new teachers to get a good start,” said Barth.

In 2013, Barth sat with an Austin KIPP senior. He asked her about college plans. She had applied to Harvard and Austin Community College. Barth dug in and learned that only 15% were applying the way well-supported students do. They added guidance resources across the network which resulted in 15% of KIPP seniors applying with the right mix in 2014 to 76% of graduates in 2019.

KIPP guidance counselors have a network of 90 college partners that have a high degree of success with first-generation learners.

In an effort to boost college completion rates, KIPP Through College provides support to kippsters on campus. “When first-year students run into challenges, they have a single point of contact who can help out,” said Barth. “It often makes the difference between staying and leaving.”

KIPP research discovered that 40% of alumni enrolled in college regularly skip meals and a quarter of them are financially responsible for someone at home. They started a microgrant program to cover the $300-400 expenses that could be the difference between dropping out and staying.

Barth is a director at Braven, a nonprofit that seeks to propel low-income, first-generation college enrollees into a quality first job or graduate school. Founded by former TFA talent lead Aimée Eubanks Davis, Braven provides career education, mentorships, and work experiences.

Key Takeaways:
[:14] About today’s podcast with Richard Barth.
[:58] Tom welcomes Richard to the podcast!
[1:12] Why did Richard originally joined the start-up, Teach for America, in 1989?
[5:28] Richard recounts the KIPP origin story from when it was first founded in 1994.
[8:03] Richard explains how he has seen the KIPP organization mature over the years since he joined in 2005.
[13:16] Since 10 years ago, KIPP began to get their first college completion data but it wasn’t as high as they had anticipated. Since then, how have Richard and his colleagues worked towards improving college-going rates as well as college completion rates?
[19:07] About KIPP’s incredible commitment to supporting graduates while they’re in college.
[22:01] What could higher institutions be doing to help KIPP’s students and other students finish college?
[25:48] In addition to KIPP’s efforts to improve college completion, KIPP has also made efforts to improve teaching and learning. Richard summarizes some of the strides they’ve made there!
[28:50] Richard gives his thoughts on how serving as a Board Member of General Assembly has made him think differently about learning and post-secondary opportunities.
[34:58] As more and more students move into work and learn ladders, how does KIPP help them in school and make good decisions about their career once they’re out of school?
[36:30] Richard speaks about the exciting non-profit he is the Chairman of the Board for — Braven
[39:12] Tom thanks Richard for joining the Getting Smart Podcast!

Mentioned in This Episode:
Richard Barth (LinkedIn)
Teach for America
KIPP Foundation
Gates Foundation
General Assembly
Edison Schools (now Edison Learning)

For more, see:

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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