Case Study: Knowledge is Power- Left Behind No More

Overview:

  • Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is the largest network of public charter schools in the U.S.
  • KIPP serves predominantly Black and Latinx students across the country, as well as other students of color.
  • The traditional approach to robotics teams (i.e., 10 students per team per school) would mean leaving out thousands of other bright students who wanted to try their hand at coding and building robots.
  • For help, KIPP turned to the CoderZ platform, which not only helps expose its diverse student body to STEM opportunities, but also supports its teachers on their own coding journeys.

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Laying a Solid Foundation for Tomorrow’s Computer Coders

A network of free open-enrollment college preparatory schools located in low-income communities nationwide, the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is the largest network of public charter schools in the U.S. Serving over 112,000 students, KIPP has a presence in most urban centers and in some rural areas for a total of 28 regions (each of which encompasses between two and 30 schools).

“We serve predominantly Black and Latinx students across the country, as well as other students of color,” said Paola Valdivia, Director of STE Instruction. Knowing that these students don’t always get an equal shot at some of the most desirable and high-paying technical careers, KIPP works hard to provide students access to high-quality STEM opportunities.

“We’ve found that our students, given the opportunity and the exposure to computer science and robotics, flourish and thrive,” said Valdivia, who four years ago led an initiative to start robotics teams at many of KIPP’s schools. “We wanted to give all of our students an opportunity to learn and get exposed to coding and robotics.”

 

Supporting a Scaffolded Approach

For KIPP, the traditional approach to robotics teams (i.e., 10 students per team per school) would mean leaving out thousands of other bright youngsters who wanted to try their hand at coding and building robots. “We knew we needed to do something broader,” Valdivia recalled, “so we integrated one unit of computer science into every grade level and scaffolded the program by age.”

After testing out a few different coding curriculums, Valdivia learned about the CoderZ robotics platform. “CoderZ caught my attention because we had adopted FIRST Robotics at the middle schools and worked with the EV3 robots,” she explained.

“A lot of eighth graders were joining our robotics teams,” Valdivia continued, “and the platform combines giving every single student the opportunity to learn how to code and see their own virtual robot move.”

The Widest Possible Reach

When selecting a robotics platform that would provide the widest possible reach across KIPP’s student body, Valdivia really liked how CoderZ supports teachers. In fact, the support has helped spawn more dedicated robotics and computer science teachers in the KIPP ecosystem.

“In schools that lack a dedicated teacher, taking on teaching computer science in any form or fashion can be very daunting,” Valdivia explained. “Teachers who feel like they don’t have the expertise sort of shy away from it.”

CoderZ provides a support structure that helps all of KIPP’s science teachers lay out the framework for computer science conceptual learning before students apply that knowledge in the robotics platform. It’s also a good, blended learning solution that has a positive impact on students’ STEM performance and life skills (e.g., collaboration, grit, and perseverance).

“The program came complete with lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, and a support team that was very flexible and open to feedback. That was very attractive selling points for us,” said Valdivia. “We thought CoderZ would be able to support the needs of our teachers and students.”

By taking advantage of a CoderZ-Amazon partnership focused on providing teacher licenses, KIPP is now engaging teachers in regions where computer science may not be flourishing or where it’s just not a priority right now. “Those teachers are now using the platform, learning more about it,” Valdivia explained, “and—ideally—advocating for its adoption within their own schools and/or regions.”

 

Promoting Equity Through Coding

For KIPP, making computer science as much of a priority as its core science curriculum was an important step in getting a more diverse group of students involved with coding. From an equity perspective, Valdivia said CoderZ expands upon that vision by exposing students to new STEM opportunities that they may not have otherwise considered.