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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 academics.  


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 in life.



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 (University of 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. We’ve integrated our own experiences as teachers with the research of Seligman, Peterson, and Duckworth to create a road map for the development of each strength. For example, to help teachers, kids, and parents develop grit we ask them to reflect on whether they try very hard after experiencing failure.


KIPP schools around the country are now focused on how we can integrate a more structured and measurable approach to character development.

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