Since it’s inception on Chicago’s West Side in 2003, KIPP Ascend Charter School, 715 S. Kildare, has continued to expand, including plans to open its first kindergarten.

The school has been featured in the Austin Weekly Newspaper since it began, including its 2007 historical trip with students to famous civil rights locations and institutions in the South. KIPP’s founding school leader, Jim O’Connor, recruited heavily from the West Side in the early 2000s.

Today, students and parents have not let O’Connor down, he insists.

“As a result of hard work and great teaching on a daily basis, our students make strong academic gains. With the support of our staff, students take on the habits of mind necessary to complete a 4-year college degree,” O’Connor said.

Austin Weekly News columnist China Hill (above) is a KIPP Ascend instructor, teaching social responsibility and citizenship. During a school day last week, the students were orderly and eagerly participating in a discussion about citizenship. O’Connor referred to Hill as one of the school’s “star educators.” Within a few minutes of observing Hill interacting with her students, she’s able to control her classroom with a firm yet gentle touch-the students showed respect for her and she respected them. KIPP Ascend is one of 66 KIPP schools serving over 16,000 students nationwide.

O’Connor was eager to discuss KIPP Ascend’s current ranking for their eighth grade students, which he notes is above the state average and also Chicago’s average on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). O’Connor said most KIPP students earn acceptance into college-prep high schools such as Christ the King, Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Francis Parker High School, Clark Math and Science Academy, The Latin School, and Trinity High School.

-Delores McCain