Although they did not start out as a nonprofit, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin’s work resulted in one: the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Foundation. In 1994, Feinberg and Levin, Teach for America graduates, started an inner-city school program for middle school students. Today, 82 schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia are KIPP programs. KIPP serves 21,000 mostly middle school age children. While many KIPP students begin fifth grade at least one or more grades behind their peers in math and reading, after four years at KIPP, 100 percent of eighth grade classes outperformed their district averages in mathematics and reading based on state tests. Word Hard. Be Nice. tells the story of the early years of KIPP.
What can a nonprofit leader learn from this book? The value of partnerships and perseverance. While the relationships were not always rosy, in fact they were often difficult and challenging, KIPP had to work with local schools and school boards to succeed. If you are faced with a partnership you must make work, Work Hard. Be Nice. will give you insights about how to survive, grow and thrive in this environment and how to hold on to your vision in tough times.