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UTHealth to partner with KIPP to research, improve early childhood education

Published: March 18, 2011 by Andrew Heger, UTHealth Children’s Learning Institute

Susan Landry, PhD, director of the UTHealth Children’s Learning Institute

Susan Landry, PhD, director of the UTHealth Children’s Learning Institute

In a unanimous vote, The University of Texas System Board of Regents recently approved a proposal to lease approximately 2.9 acres of land to the Knowledge Is Power Program, Inc. (KIPP). The decision signifies the beginning of a unique partnership between KIPP and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

It allows KIPP to move forward with plans to build a school on UTHealth’s south campus. Simultaneously, UTHealth will proceed with its own plans to build a research and clinical facility for the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI). While the two facilities would operate independently, there is a plan to build them side-by-side to enhance collaboration and pursue a common goal – improve early childhood education.

“This initiative is all about changing children’s lives and preparing them for success,” said Susan Landry, PhD, director of CLI and the Albert & Margaret Alkek Chair in Early Childhood Development at the UTHealth Medical School. “It could help shape the future of education.”

The KIPP school would serve 775 students from prekindergarten through fourth grade. KIPP would operate the school and allow CLI the opportunity to conduct research and observe students and teachers in classrooms and other learning environments.

The KIPP school, Landry said, would serve as a demonstration site. Based on CLI’s research findings, best practices would be offered and could be adapted and made available to other KIPP schools, public elementary schools, including charters, and early education programs across the state and country.

“This is a new form of collaboration that would give us the opportunity to facilitate research at a KIPP school,” she added. “We would be able to work directly with the children, assist KIPP with curriculum development, offer training to the teachers and so much more.”

KIPP officials said that the partnership makes it possible to test educational materials and theories in real-time applications, thus advancing KIPP’s commitment to research and continuous improvement of the craft of teaching young children to ensure college readiness and success.

“KIPP and CLI share a goal of preparing children to contribute to building a better tomorrow as adults,” said Mike Feinberg, KIPP co-founder and KIPP Houston superintendent.  “The partnership between KIPP and CLI will ensure our goal gets a great start at the beginning of the journey with the children who need the most help, and in the process help other school systems learn how to achieve their goals as well.”

James D. Dannenbaum, who serves on the UT System Board of Regents Health Affairs Committee, said the proposed KIPP school is ideal for research designed to identify the most effective ways children learn.

“I think it is a great step forward,” he said before the vote.

UTHealth officials are excited to begin this partnership since it would enhance CLI’s ability to present proven learning solutions derived from, and supported by, documented research.

“This is an opportunity for the Children’s Learning Institute to work with KIPP,” said Larry R. Kaiser, MD, president of UTHealth. “This would be particularly advantageous for faculty and staff to carry out their research in order to improve early childhood education.”

Over the next two years, UTHealth and KIPP plan to raise funds for their separate building projects. The plan, Landry said, is to break ground on the education complex in 2013.