Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America
When Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin signed up for Teach for America right after college and found themselves utter failures in the classroom, they vowed to remake themselves into superior educators. They did that—and more. In their early twenties, by sheer force of talent and determination never to take no for an answer, they created a wildly successful fifth-grade experience that would grow into the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which today includes sixty-six schools in nineteen states and the District of Columbia.
KIPP schools incorporate what Feinberg and Levin learned from America's best, most charismatic teachers: lessons need to be lively; school days need to be longer (the KIPP day is nine and a half hours); the completion of homework has to be sacrosanct (KIPP teachers are available by telephone day and night). Chants, songs, and slogans such as "Work hard, be nice" energize the program. Illuminating the ups and downs of the KIPP founders and their students, Mathews gives us something quite rare: a hopeful book about education.
Engaging story of a promising school model
By Timothy J. Bartik - February 11, 2009
Jay Mathews's book is a good story and description of the history and accomplishments of the KIPP schools. Among its strengths are the following:
1. It is a well-written and highly engaging book. The personal stories of KIPP's founders are interwoven with their battles with institutions in a manner that attracts and keeps the reader's attention.
2. The book includes some detailed stories of what goes on within KIPP schools. The book does a good job of describing key KIPP program elements that include longer school days and school years, more homework, more teacher home contact, along with an eclectic group of pedagogical techniques.
3. The book highlights the contribution to the KIPP model of teachers Harriett Ball and Rafe Esquith, who greatly influenced KIPP's founders.
4. The book is fair in discussing some criticisms of the KIPP model, including that it may select more motivated students and parents in some cases, and may lead to... read more
Where was the editor?
By Swimmer's mom - April 2, 2009
I read this book on a plane. It's a fascinating story, but could have used some serious editing, particularly with respect to chronology. There was too much jumping ahead and then rewinding, which was confusing, especially because the story moved between New York and Houston after the first several years and it was sometimes hard to keep straight which school we were reading about. I don't like the recreated dialogue convention -- obviously, no one was taking notes during all of these conversations and confrontations over more than a decade. And do all of the physical descriptions of the major players (other than the two teachers) really add to our understanding of this story? Do we really need to know when Feinberg and his wife-to-be began their physical relationship? With regard to the small section devoted to empirical research, I believe that the author has too easily dismissed the observation that the students attending KIPP schools are not randomly selected. Although... read more
A most important book
By Donald E. Graham - January 25, 2009
You can't be more biased than I am in writing this review: I am a lifelong friend and co-worker of the author's AND a believer in KIPP (I'm a board member of KIPP-DC).
That said: I think this is one of the most important books that will be published in 2009--and for all its importance, a lot of fun as well.
The book describes an amazing, but now widespread group of charter schools that produce what look like impossible results. They take thousands of inner-city public school students and help them turn into top-class academic performers. Here in Washington DC, the number one public middle school on standardized reading and math tests in 2008 wasn't the school in Georgetown or another upper-income neighborhood. It was a KIPP school across the Anacostia River.
Jay Mathews tells the story of KIPP back to its earliest days--back to two lost Teach for America teachers in Houston groping desperately for help in becoming successful teachers--and being wise... read more