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Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America

Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America

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3.63

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Published by Workman Publishing
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.
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.

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Publish date: Jan 20, 2009
Added to Scribd: Mar 12, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9781565126732
List Price: $9.99

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12/16/2014

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9781565126732

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paulsignorelli_1 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
Jay Mathews, as a long-time education writer for the Washington Post, displays an enviable ability to produce a real page-turner on a topic far from the top of the average person's reading list. The narrative flow is far more engaging than much of what we find in contemporary novels; the emotional engagement he fosters has us rooting for his protagonists and feeling the occasional personal losses he documents. As he chronicles the story of Mike Feinberg and Dave Levinâs journey from being two inexperienced yet idealistic, highly energetic, and incredibly persistent Teach for America alums to running a successful chain of charter schools--the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)--serving disadvantaged children, he tells an archetypal tale that any trainer-teacher-learner can appreciate. As we absorb the wonderful story of how they engaged their youngest learners in actions to shame reticent school district officials into action--thereby providing a lesson in civics by inspiring the students to engage in civic action--we have an extremely important example of the importance of providing learning opportunities that are grounded in experience that puts what is being learned into action--experiential learning at its best. It's not all rosy in "Work Hard, Be Nice." Mathews and his interviewees do not shy away from acknowledging the occasional small and large failures that sometimes come from overzealous actions. We are, however, never in doubt as to where Mathews himself stands on the issue of whether KIPP is worth studying: "Over time, the debate about KIPP among educators has grown, full of misinformation and misimpressions because few of the people talking about KIPP schools have actually seen them in action," he writes (p. 281). And he fully intends to continue exploring the KIPP model, he adds: "In the search for the best schools, I still have a lot of work to do" (p. 317).
Publishers Weekly reviewed this
"Many people in the United States believe that low-income children can no more be expected to do well in school than ballerinas can be counted on to excel in football," begins Washington Post education reporter Mathews (Escalante: The Best Teacher in America). He delves into the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) and follows the enterprise's founders, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, from their days as young educators in the Teach for America program to heading one of the country's most controversial education programs running today. Luckily for many low-income children, Feinberg and Levin believed that with proper mentors, student incentives and unrestrained enthusiasm on the part of the teachers, some of the country's poorest children could surpass the expectations of most inner-city public schools. Mathews emphasizes Feinberg and Levin's personal stakes in the KIPP program, as they often found themselves becoming personally involved with the families of their students (in one case Feinberg took the TV away from a student's apartment because the student's mother insisted that she could not stop her child from watching it). Mathews innate ability to be at once observer and commentator makes this an insightful and enlightening book. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

2008-10-13, Publishers Weekly
cao9415_1 reviewed this
An interesting "history" of the KIPP schools and the techniques used therein. I had heard of the the program prior to reading this book, but knew little about it. As one with an interest in education, I found this book to be a fascinating account of some pretty impressive gains among students who had not found much success prior to their participation in the program. A worthwhile read.
auntieknickers reviewed this
Rated 4/5
This is an inspiring book detailing the struggles of two young Teach for America participants who ended up starting the now-famous KIPP schools. It would be easy to come away from this book believing that all our inner-city schools (and the failing rural schools that get much less publicity) should follow the KIPP model. Close examination of the student stories in this book, as in so many other similar books, will however reveal that parent involvement is crucial to student success, even if the involvement is as little as signing a form to agree to a school change. Sadly, there are still many parents who can't or won't manage even that level of engagement with their children's learning.
Publishers Weekly reviewed this
"Many people in the United States believe that low-income children can no more be expected to do well in school than ballerinas can be counted on to excel in football," begins Washington Post education reporter Mathews (Escalante: The Best Teacher in America). He delves into the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) and follows the enterprise's founders, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, from their days as young educators in the Teach for America program to heading one of the country's most controversial education programs running today. Luckily for many low-income children, Feinberg and Levin believed that with proper mentors, student incentives and unrestrained enthusiasm on the part of the teachers, some of the country's poorest children could surpass the expectations of most inner-city public schools. Mathews emphasizes Feinberg and Levin's personal stakes in the KIPP program, as they often found themselves becoming personally involved with the families of their students (in one case Feinberg took the TV away from a student's apartment because the student's mother insisted that she could not stop her child from watching it). Mathews innate ability to be at once observer and commentator makes this an insightful and enlightening book. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

2008-10-13, Publishers Weekly
benuathanasia reviewed this
Rated 4/5
This book is basically the "life and times" of the KIPP program. The book is very well written, but unfortunately, the subject matter isn't the best. KIPP, in my area, is referred to as "the cult." Teachers I know that have been part of it or know others who have all say they suck the life out of you during the best years of your professional life and then spit you out when they've finished leaching off you. From what I have read in this book, I can see why that is the case.I'm not reviewing the program though, so I guess I'll just say that this book is an interesting insight into the minds of a couple of madmen. I wouldn't really recommend it though.
edith1_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
How two guys in their twenties started a successful new school system for disadvantaged kids in poor neighborhoods. (The KIPP schools, which I had never heard of, but whose name I've come across a few times since I started reading this book.) It is an interesting and inspiring story, and I'm glad I read it, even though it's the most badly written book I've read in a long time. I wish someone else had written it, or that the book had gotten some attention from a decent editor.
debnance_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
I always love to read about schools where kids do well. This is one such story. It’s the story of the KIPP program that began in Houston in 1995, started by two committed Teach for America teachers. Here’s a brutal fact: If poor children are going to learn at the same rate as affluent children, they need more school days. Ugh. That hits me where it hurts. This is a brutal fact teachers can’t bear. One of the perks of being a teacher is summers off. Summers kill poor children’s achievement. Eek. So, give me another way we can improve student achievement without taking away our summers? Yep, KIPP has another answer: longer school days. Another brutal fact that we teachers can’t bear. Please, give me something else? Well, KIPP teachers help kids with their homework…in the evenings! Eek. This is getting worse and worse. KIPP offers answers to improving student achievement among poor children, but the answers are not easy.
shanjan_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
I had high hopes for this book. Knowing a little about the KIPP program and being a former educator myself I figured it would be an inspiring read. I also had the bonus of knowing one of the KIPP co-founders, a friend of my husbands from college.There is no way that the KIPP story could be anything but inspiring. Two college graduates join Teach for America and ultimately start successful charter schools in the middle school grades in states across the US.This book documents how Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg created these schools, the struggles they faced throughout this process and the various people they took inspiration from. While the story itself is compelling, the telling of the story left a lot to be desire. Mathews attempts add interest to this story by delving into the personal lives of Levin Feinberg, specifically their romantic lives, which feels a bit voyueristic and adds nothing to the main story. Perhaps Matthews had a difficult time transitioning from reporting to story-telling, but whatever the reason the novel often feels disjointed.Instead of delving into Dave and Mike's personal lives, I would have like to see Mathews interview students and parents who committed to the KIPP program. There were accounts of one or two students but I had the feeling that they were coming from interviews with Levin and Feinberg rather than the parents and students themselves. Overall this was a very disappointing book; don't waste your time.
saffron12_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
I was hoping as I began reading this book that it would be intriguing. In many ways, I did find it interesting, and actually never realized until I began reading this book that there are KIPP schools. However, I had a lot of trouble finishing the book. It just is not quite "engaging" enough, really. Perhaps it is something about the narrative. . .

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