Character and Academics

KIPP’s longstanding motto — “Work hard. Be nice.” — isn’t just a tagline. Since KIPP's beginning in 1994, the development of character has been as important to us as the teaching of rigorous academic skills. Together, they are the yin-yang that make our schools come alive. We believe both are critical to the success of our students in college and life.


Every school emphasizes a core set of values, or character traits, that will help students overcome obstacles and achieve success. These values are integrated into assignments, student-teacher interactions, school uniforms, and the overall culture of the school. Additionally, students are strongly encouraged to develop community leadership skills through service learning projects and engaging in volunteer opportunities.

KIPP offers teachers, kids, and parents a structured, meaningful way to talk about and develop character. Our approach is rooted in the research of Dr. Martin Seligman (Universityof Pennsylvania) and Dr. Chris Peterson (University of Michigan) that identifies 24 character strengths as leading to engaged, meaningful, and purposeful lives. At KIPP, explicitly creating opportunities to develop character is infused throughout the school day. 

Building off of a research partnership between KIPP NYC and Dr. Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), KIPP is now especially focused on seven highly predictive strengths: zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity.