Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential

( 7 )

Overview

Deborah Kenny was a young mother of three small children seeking to make sense of her life amid the despair of her husband's untimely death when she decided to devote herself to radically reinventing public education. Born to Rise recounts a journey that led Kenny to risk her life savings to open schools in Harlem while proving that all children, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances, can learn at high levels. Students enter Harlem Village Academies several years behind grade level, but in just a few years ...

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Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential

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Overview

Deborah Kenny was a young mother of three small children seeking to make sense of her life amid the despair of her husband's untimely death when she decided to devote herself to radically reinventing public education. Born to Rise recounts a journey that led Kenny to risk her life savings to open schools in Harlem while proving that all children, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances, can learn at high levels. Students enter Harlem Village Academies several years behind grade level, but in just a few years they are transformed, ranking among the highest in the nation—with 99 percent of eighth graders meeting proficiency standards in math, science, and social studies.

How do they do it?

For the first time, Kenny shares the groundbreaking strategy that took ten years to develop. She reveals the secret to creating a powerful workplace culture that attracts the most talented people and brings out their passion and highest performance—a culture that produces stunning student achievement and teachers who regularly use words like magical to describe the workplace environment.

Born to Rise is the moving and strikingly candid account of Kenny's deeply personal dream: to pursue social justice for our nation's most vulnerable children. Part memoir, part manifesto, it is a hopeful and practical exposition of what it takes to transform schools and create organizations where the staff lights up with entrepreneurial drive. It is a must-read for anyone who cares about children and the future of this country, as well as for leaders who want to motivate and inspire fierce dedication in their employees.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One woman’s tragedy turns into triumph for hundreds of Harlem schoolchildren in Kenny’s personal and professional memoir of founding the Harlem Village Academies, a successful group of charter schools that serve some of New York City’s neediest students. After losing her husband, an exemplary man she considered to be “born to a higher purpose,” to leukemia, Kenny sought—and found—her own purpose by creating a set of phenomenal inner-city schools where teachers could be treated like true professionals, banking on her belief that “a focus on talent is the one thing that will fix public education in America.” Inspired by educators and reformers such as Jonathan Kozol and Geoffrey Canada, Kenny wanted to create schools that would give all students access to the sorts of educational privileges she and her own children had known. Though the pace slows as Kenny flounders to discern her vision and spends long months working on planning and funding for the schools, the anecdotes of successful teachers (Kenny’s “rock stars”) at work and students whose lives were truly turned around by her work prove persuasive and uplifting. Agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly. (June)
New York Times
“Parents and principals trying to understand what makes successful schools work ought to read Born to Rise.”
the Oprah Magazine O
“This memoir of a young widow’s quest to transform urban education by establishing the groundbreaking Harlem Village Academies will inspire readers everywhere.”
Jack Welch
“Leaders who want to light an entrepreneurial fire under every employee must read this book.”
Bill Cosby
“Deborah’s journey is a gift: she teaches children to love learning”
Mayor - Michael Bloomberg
“Deborah Kenny’s inspiring story holds powerful lessons for parents, teachers, administrators, and elected officials across the country.”
Arne Duncan
“Our country needs more schools like Harlem Village Academies.”
Hugh Jackman
“Deborah has created something extraordinary at Harlem Village Academies. You feel a warmth and an intellectual energy but most of all there’s a passion for learning like I have never before seen at a school.”
John Legend
“Deborah’s passion and integrity are inspirational. This important story is a must-read.”
Jason Mraz
Born to Rise is about Deborah Kenny’s ability to see greatness in every child and transform entire communities. Her journey is a passionate one and gives me goose bumps.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
“Deborah Kenny’s inspiring story holds powerful lessons for parents, teachers, administrators, and elected officials across the country.”
Deborah Meier
“I forgive Deborah Kenny for writing an interesting book, Born to Rise, for her misinformed - even slanderous - claims about the impact of unions…. it’s a very good book to read-useful, informative and inspiring.… her educational values are close to mine.”
O: the Oprah Magazine
“This memoir of a young widow’s quest to transform urban education by establishing the groundbreaking Harlem Village Academies will inspire readers everywhere.”
Kirkus Reviews
Inspirational account of a woman beating the odds to open quality schools for low-income families in Harlem. In 2001, Kenny, who has a doctorate in comparative international education, created what would become Harlem Village Academies--even though the venture made no sense to her family and friends. A young widow with three children at home, the author had no charter school experience, no building to use for classrooms, no specific plan and little money. She did know enough to realize that without fundraising success, she would never obtain charters from education regulators. However, raising money was extremely difficult without a state charter in hand. Nonetheless, Kenny felt compelled to proceed for reasons she didn't fully understood. The book is partly memoir; the story of the charter school doesn't appear until approximately 50 pages in. The author begins with a chronicle of her husband's death from cancer, followed by the story of her innovative thinking as a business executive, including her stint as group president of Sesame Street Publishing. Kenny shares the development of her thinking about her hoped-for charter school, with its emphasis on building a faculty of the best teachers available in the K-12 range. The parents of the children completed applications, and the spots were filled by an independently run lottery. Although many of the students are lagging below the norm in reading and other subjects, a high percentage of them have shown marked improvement as Kenny's charter schools have refined teaching and learning techniques. A mostly upbeat book that explains many of the obstacles to success while often glossing over those obstacles and the negative outcomes accompanying the admirable successes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062106209
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/5/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 397,067
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Kenny is founder and CEO of Harlem Village Academies, a network of public charter schools. She is widely regarded as one of the most influential educational entrepreneurs in the country and is regularly featured in national television and print media. Kenny holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in comparative international education and a B.A. Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

1 Searching 1

2 What Life Expects 17

3 People, Not Product 39

4 Providence 51

5 A School for My Children 73

6 Down to the Wire 85

7 Startup 103

8 Rock Stars 113

9 The Path to Justice 133

10 Drowning 141

11 My Child Is a Child Again 155

12 I Used to Throw My Books Away 177

13 People and Culture 187

14 Scenes from a Revolution 209

15 Be the Culture 219

16 Born to Rise 227

Epilogue: The Education Manifesto 235

Acknowledgments 241

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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(6)

4 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 5, 2012

    I think teaching is the best job in the world, and I have been a

    I think teaching is the best job in the world, and I have been a teacher for ten years. I taught two years as a Teaching Fellow in the South Bronx, two years at a high school in Queens and six years at Harlem Village Academy Leadership, one of Deborah Kenny's middle schools. I honestly cannot imagine teaching anywhere else. HVA schools are amazing.

    I am so happy Deborah decided to tell her story. In her book, the events of her life are woven together so carefully and honestly. This is the story of how she founded our schools, developed the best people, honed her vision, and never stopped working toward improving every single aspect of our schools. In every decision she made, she was always guided by what would be best for the students she wanted to teach. Both her incredible work ethic and her eye for detail beautifully translate to the page. Her commitment to educational equality is so inspiring, and in this book, you read about just how greatly it impacts the lives of her students and teachers. Every child deserves a great teacher, and Deborah has become an expert at creating schools where teachers love to teach and students love to learn.

    Deborah's book, Born to Rise, is the story of how she changed the lives of so many children and so many teachers. And it's beautiful.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012

    Wow

    Extraordinary effort from one very giving person and her family to improve childrenkind! Hooray for heroes that still care! I am a 30 year veteran who constantly looks for ways to improve how I teach - thanks to this book i have some new ones to try out!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    Highly recommended before the school year starts!

    I knew that my own teaching processes were out of place in the public system, they'd be a better fit in Deborah's school. Born to Rise validates why great teachers just are not a good fit in most of our nations schools. Every teacher and administrator needs to read this book before the start of school this fall. You will receive encouragement to keep teaching the way YOU know is best for students and not bow to the system. If you're thinking of starting your own school, this is the handbook, full of details of the long journey to a dream for true student learning.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I am going to order this book. Its so good to know there are peo

    I am going to order this book. Its so good to know there are people out there who care about others especially those in the lower socioeconomic status. She sounds like a wonderful human being who has shown the world what its like to truly give back. She will forever be blessed for her actions.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Score one for charter schools

    I read with interest Ms. Kenny's ambitious desire to start a charter school in Harlem; the achievements of that first school and those that followed are commendable. In my career as a public school educator, I have heard many negative comments regarding low test scores, out-of-control students, and lackluster teaching which are described in this book. While I disagree that unions in general want to keep all teachers employed, regardless of ability, I do feel that the "rules" governing the public education system sometimes make it difficult for teachers to do the best job possible. One passage in the book really spoke to me: a corporate leader describing his managment philosophy as being about people and culture (page 195) -- "You hire people you trust completely to do the job. Then you create a culture that enables them to do their best work. That's it. You have to appreciate and support people and take away the roadblocks so they can do their job." If all administrators, in public, charter, and private schools, adhered to this sentiment, more high-quality teaching would take place. I do wonder at about the equity regarding students in the Harlem Village Academies--do those schools include special needs students in the same percentage as surrounding public schools? Are students whose first language is not English similarly included? Overall, a good book that has made me think more about my teaching methods and the culture of my own school.

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  • Posted July 11, 2012

    We Need More of These Schools/Teachers

    At first I was afraid this book was written by a person that was going to promote liberal ideals...."social justice". However, her social justice isn't the political kind we here politicians promote. Hers is the idea that all children deserve a great education, no matter where they live. Suburb schools should not be better than inner-city schools. I totally agree. I also agree that our teachers should be encouraged and allowed to teach. So many good teachers become discouraged because of the politics of school districts and governments. I wish all our children could experience Mrs. Kenny's schools.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2012

    Anonymous

    Dr. Kenny provides an inspiring account of educational progress for an urban population. This is a "must read" for anyone in the field of education. Stil, as one who works fr a public school system, I was left with a few unanswered questions. What is the average class size at HVA? If it was smaller than 30, I would hope Dr. Kenny would advocate for smaller classes in all of our nation's schools. Additionally, although HVA used a lottery, I question whether this resulted in a random population of students. The parents of HVA students showed a certain level of initiative and involvement when they participated in the lottery. The public schools provide support for students whose parents are much less involved. That being said, I truly loved the compassionate, innovative ideas shared in this book. Best wishes to Dr. Kenny and all educators associated with her academies.

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