Character training at KIPP schools

12/14/04 to: Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP (

Dear Dave,

Several nights ago, I was impressed listening to you on TV explain your KIPP program to Brian Lamb of PBS. With 38 successful schools (locations above) your group seems to have made a solid breakthrough in inner city education. Congratulations!

Since graduating from Stanford's Graduate School of Business a number of years ago, I have been interested in ways to improve education. From both within and outside the public education system, I have watched a number of promising initiatives fail to catch on, such as vouchers, inadequately managed charter schools, and the Edison project. Your KIPP program is gaining strength due to your focus on hard work and great school management. Two aspects of your success seem particularly noteworthy: (1) totally random selection of students in minority areas and (2) absence of teacher tenure.

In recent years, I have been focusing on identifying traits in high school students that lead to future financial success. Academics and college attendance of course are important. But research has shown that other traits like ambition and social skills may be even more important. High school students really get turned on when I tell them that these character traits are often better predictors of success than their IQ. For example, they are amazed that a young person who develops good social skills but maintains just a "C" average could well end up managing some "A" students in his class.

Many research findings on success are summarized on my popular webpage. Besides outside findings, my website includes the results from over 2400 students who participated in a unique survey. A Bedford-Stuyvesant teacher described the value of the survey results: "I must tell you that several students used the SQ when they went for job interviews & it made a great impression (in a few cases, it may have been the deciding factor in getting the job)." One can get an overall view of my approach in the newspaper article at

The KIPP schools' emphasis on character as well as academic education should find support in the pages of my website. KIPP certainly stresses ambition, one of the keys to success, and a topic on which I have also done some survey work with students. Others have looked to my approach to measure traits like integrity. Harvard's Howard Gardner was interested in my finding that there is a large, measurable difference between his social intelligence factor and a person's actual ability to get along with others.

There could be much in my site that your colleagues might find useful for KIPP. (One example: "Close the (minority education) gap by teaching social skills" by Abigail Thernstrom, Los Angeles Times June 27, 2004 - at I look forward to sharing such success ideas with your innovative operation.


Van Sloan




Mon, 20 Dec 2004 12:43:57 EST


Re: Character training at KIPP schools


Mr. Sloan,
Thanks for your kind note and your interest and enthusiasm in KIPP. We really appreciate it. Your research sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading it more carefully. Please know that you have an open invitation to visit us anytime.
Have a great holiday season.
Take care,


Go to: Social Skills help students achieve in academics

Go to: Using Social Quotient surveys to help in social skills training

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