Mike Feinberg | Founder of KIPP, Education Activist

Mike Feinberg is the Co-Founder of arguably one of the worlds most brilliant, effective and progressive schools – KIPP Academy. Transforming the lives of children who are effectively written off by the structures of society, he has shown that it is possibly for anyone, if they apply themselves in the right way, to reach any heights.

WMikeFeinberg_higher resolutionhat Drives Me | At KIPP, we believe that promises to children are sacred. No child has to come to KIPP; they and their families choose to come to KIPP because we promised, while sitting around their kitchen table, that we’d do whatever it takes to help the child get to and through college. We’re on the hook and accountable for results well beyond any government accountability system.

My Highlights | Creating and building KIPP with my co-founder, Dave Levin, and CEO, Richard Barth, has been an amazing journey. I am honored and humbled to work with so many remarkable educators on a daily basis, helping kids climb the mountain to and through college. On a personal level, being a dad to my two amazing children, Gus and Abadit, has been an incredible adventure.

Students-at-a-Kipp-school-006My Key Talent | At KIPP, we talk to our students about the importance of “grit.” This is one of the character strengths that researchers have identified as being crucial to success. To have “grit” means that you will do whatever it takes to achieve the goals that you think are important. We needed a lot of grit to found the original KIPP Academies in Houston and New York, and our fellow educators need a lot of grit in order to help us grow as a network to 141 schools serving more than 50,000 students in underserved communities.

The Principles I Live By | My number one principle is, “Promises to children are sacred.” At KIPP, we promise our students that we will do whatever it takes to get them on the path to success. It’s our responsibility to deliver on those promises, no matter what. We also like to say, “Work hard. Be nice.” That means we will do the hard work, and we will do it right, in order to make sure our students are learning and achieving at the highest possible levels, and we remember and appreciate all of our friends early and often.

mike feinberg 5Lessons I Have Learnt | When Dave and I first founded KIPP, the prevailing wisdom was that students from undeserved backgrounds couldn’t learn as well or achieve as highly as more privileged students. We knew that thought was wrong. Over the past twenty years, our hunch has been proven right. It turns out that if you hold students to high expectations—no matter their background—they will rise to meet them.

The Best Advice I’ve Received | “Finish what you start.”

kipp-academy-bronxInspiring Others | From the very beginning, great teachers have been the heart and soul of KIPP. Dave Levin and I were inspired by master teachers. We know from research and experience that excellent teaching is the single most important factor in student success. So our priority at KIPP is to find, develop, and retain the best teachers possible. The way to do that is to make KIPP a great place to teach. We pay our teachers well, give them the authority to teach how they see fit, and provide extensive professional development opportunities for them, both in-person and online.

People Who Inspire Me | One early KIPP hero is Harriett Ball. She was a master teacher in Houston when Dave and I were just starting out as teachers. She was  the best I’ve ever seen at getting students involved and engaged in every lesson. She used chants, songs, and raps to help students relate to even the most complex mathematical and scientific concepts. She had high expectations for all of her students, no matter what. We incorporated many of her methods into KIPP. “Knowledge Is Power” is a line from one of her chants.

mike feinbergThe Legacy I Would Like To Leave | My dream is that we will come full circle, with students who started out at KIPP coming back to teach and lead at KIPP. Already some of our teachers are alumni from the original KIPP middle schools in Houston and New York City. That’s what I hope KIPP’s legacy is: students climbing the mountain to and through college, and then reaching back down to teach the next generation and help them on their climb, too.

Useful Links |

Click on the video to watch Mike talk about how KIPP works: