KIPP founder schools Rice students
Mike Feinberg, one of the two subjects of this year's common reading book, Work Hard. Be Nice. by Jay Matthews, visited Rice on Monday to talk to students about the Knowledge is Power Program. KIPP is an intensive curriculum for elementary and middle school students from low-income neighborhoods. Feinberg also discussed the current status of KIPP expansion and other educational reform issues.
Feinberg, one of the founders and inaugural teachers of the KIPP program, is now superintendent of KIPP Houston.
Feinberg, along with Dave Levin, who was unable to attend the speech because of KIPP issues in New York, helped start a revolutionary educational program for low-income students that has spread to 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Associate Dean of Undergraduates Matt Taylor introduced Feinberg by mentioning how excited the freshmen were to read the book. Taylor said that it started discussions with groups unlike past Common Reading books.
Feinberg began by joking that Work Hard. Be Nice. is a guide to learning how to get a partner, lose a partner and then marry a partner.
He talked about his first class of KIPP students that graduated in 1994, of whom 30 percent graduated from college, while many others are in the process of getting a degree. He went on to add that some of his first students have now joined KIPP as employees - including one who is now his boss.
Feinberg introduced many statistics during his presentation. He said a child in a lower socioeconomic household will hear 30,000,000 fewer words than a child in a higher socioeconomic household. The United States has one of the highest college enrollment rates in the world, with 35 percent of kids enrolling, but only 17 percent actually graduate.
Feinberg also discussed how some people feel that if they are from a certain area, they cannot go to college.
"The number one problem is the belief and mindset that any child from any zip code can't get up and go to college," Feinberg said. "We need to change this belief and mindset."
Feinberg said that if there were not people like himself, along with many other extraordinary teachers, KIPP would not be possible.
He emphasized that teachers cannot just work hard during certain parts of the day; they have to work hard all the time to get their students motivated and excited about learning.
Near the end of the presentation Feinberg said the book not only taught people about KIPP, but also taught some important lessons, such as committing and sticking through with promises and being nice to everyone.
He ended his speech by noting how important it was to be a teacher, as students and others look up to teachers, and how much he loved being a teacher.
"[Levin and I] realized teaching is a way of life and the decisions we make are the examples we set," Feinberg said.
After the speech was over, Feinberg took some questions from students in the audience. One student asked if was okay not to know what she wanted to do. Feinberg responded by saying that students have plenty of time to figure out what they want to do, and advised her to make sure that it is something that she likes to do, as that will make work more fun.
Another student asked why some wealthy schools do so poorly in academics. Feinberg said that he was happy that people were starting to ponder this problem. He said hopefully schools will be better because of KIPP, but not every school will be perfect.
Many students came away from Feinberg's speech satisfied and understood how much he had put into making KIPP work.
"Feinberg's speech was really inspiring, and I think he puts his heart into pretty much everything he does," Sid Richardson College freshman Christine Wang said.
Kaleb Underwood contributed to this article.
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