When KIPP Empower Academy began to plan its blended-learning program for the 2010-11 school year, there were few tested blended-learning models from which the school could choose. KIPP Empower did not have space for the large computer lab that a Lab Rotation would require, and administrators thought that frequent movement from classrooms to the lab would interrupt learning. A Station Rotation model could be confined within individual classrooms. Teachers already had some experience with rotations, as they had used them for project-based learning at the school. Founding School Leader Mike Kerr was strongly in favor of the Station Rotation model, and because KIPP Empower was brand new at the time, he did not have to "disrupt" a longstanding traditional model.
Most of KIPP Empower's biggest challenges have been technology-related and are being solved through trial and error. At first, the school primarily used Windows computers that frequently malfunctioned. KIPP Empower switched to using Chromebooks, which have had far fewer problems. The school initially purchased its online content through Education Elements, but when these programs were not developed or supported well, KIPP Empower ended its partnership with the company. The Education Elements's single sign on has been replaced by a Google site, and now all software that KIPP Empower purchases must have a Google Apps sign-in. Students have been caught letting their friends "hack" into their Google accounts to finish their work for them, so the school has established rules and discipline procedures to prevent this.
Matthew Peskay, KIPP LA's Chief of Innovation and Technology, advises other schools to be fully prepared before jumping into a blended-learning initiative. He said that schools must "start with the infrastructure," and acquire a high-bandwidth wireless network before implementing the model.
In Fall 2010, KIPP LA opened KIPP Empower Academy to serve kindergarten students in South Los Angeles. It is currently a K-4 school. KIPP Empower was the first school in the KIPP network to use a blended-learning model. The decision to innovate on the traditional KIPP model stemmed from cuts in public funding as a result of California’s budget crisis (KIPP Empower lost $200,000 of planned public funding). The school immediately saw significant gains in student achievement after it implemented its blended-learning program. In SY2012–13, 95% of the school's 2nd graders scored proficient or advanced on the California Standards Test (CST) in reading and 98% scored proficient or advanced on the CST in math.
Contact: Emma Geniza-Baugh
Contact Title: Innovation Coordinator
KIPP Empower Academy
8466 S. Figueroa St
Los Angeles, California
Each spring, students in grades two through eleven take a STAR test. The STAR Program looks at how well schools and students are performing. Students take tests in math, reading, writing, science, and history. Teachers and parents can use test results to improve student learning. The STAR Program includes four tests: the California Standards Tests, the California Modified Assessment, the California Alternate Performance Assessment, and the Standards-based Tests in Spanish.
The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System was established on January 1, 2014. The CAASPP System replaced the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program, which became inoperative on July 1, 2013.