KIPP Inspire Academy

The Institute for School Partnership and KIPP Inspire Academy

KIPP Inspire Academy opened its doors in 2009 as a charter school when Washington University in St. Louis agreed to be its institutional sponsor. As a middle school, it serves approximately 250 students, almost all from economically disadvantaged families.

Hank Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration at Washington University, says, “The quality of urban public schools is as important a domestic challenge in America as any. It may be the most important challenge. Working with KIPP Inspire Academy was a way that we could make a contribution to that. We also felt that we had resources that would be helpful. We had human resources, we had talented students and faculty who were – and wanted – to work in public schools. We thought we could apply them to this.”

Accessible. Fair. Education.

Hank Webber says, “We serve public school children. There is no tuition paid by students. Most of our funding, while we do supplement it with private fundraising, is from the public. We are accountable to the public. This is a public school. It is not a tuition-based school. It is non-selective; if we have space, any student in the St. Louis Public Schools can come here. If we have more applicants than we have spaces, there’s a lottery.”

Partnering works

Jeremy Esposito, school leader at KIPP Inspire Academy, says, “Our kids take a national test called the NWEA Assessment. That test gives a sense of how much kids grow during the year. Out of the three million kids who take that assessment, and the tens of thousands of schools, our school scored in the 99th percentile of schools in all content areas and grade levels. In every area, our school is one of the highest performing schools in the country.”

More than just curriculum

Jeremy Esposito says, “For many of our kids who are low income and from the city of St. Louis, college is an abstract idea that they can’t really connect to. Having a concrete university sponsor that sends tutors to our school very frequently, that has a campus we can visit, really helps make college a reality for many of our kids.”

Partnering meets benchmarks

Nisha Wadhwani, dean of instruction and 5th grade science teacher at KIPP Inspire Academy, says, “I have someone from the Institute of School Partnership who sees how instruction is going in the rest of the county. That person can tell me, ‘You want to get your kids on an even playing field with the kids in one of the more affluent suburbs? Well, this is what they’re doing. You need to do this.’ That perspective is really powerful.”

A surprising choice for Saturday classes

Nisha Wadhwani says, “The kids really love the class. On one occasion, they had an option of going to the park and playing or coming to class with our Washington University engineers. Every single person decided to come to class. None of them went to go play; all of them wanted to be in class, which I thought was pretty awesome. I think that also speaks to how well educated and how good with the kids those Washington University volunteers were.”