From the Publisher
“A vivid account of two young men who transform themselves from ‘terrible’ first-year teachers into visionaries.”–USA Today
“The improbable story of how KIPP was founded in 1994 by David Levin and Michael Feinberg, two young Teach for America alumni in Houston, is thrilling and worthy reading.”Slate
"A lively account of the way two young guys with more passion than knowledge overcame bureaucratic and financial barriers, garnered knowledge from experienced teachers, and made those ideas and techniques core KIPP ideas. Mathews makes his book as entertaining as any novel by weaving personal and professional stories and by surrounding his two stars with interesting characters." World magazine
"Mathews does a smart, respectable job here. Frankly elucidating the major struggles and roadblocks inherent in attempting to reform how underprivileged children are taught, he nonetheless leaves readers convinced of the truth in Levin’s idealistic statement on his Teach for America application: “an educator could change lives.” A grand example of humanitarianism in the classroom: Naysayers who believe there’s no hope for America’s inner-city schools haven’t met Feinberg and Levin."Kirkus
“The improbable story of how KIPP was founded in 1994 by David Levin and Michael Feinberg, two young Teach for America alumni in Houston, is thrilling and worthy reading.”—Slate
"A lively account of the way two young guys with more passion than knowledge overcame bureaucratic and financial barriers, garnered knowledge from experienced teachers, and made those ideas and techniques core KIPP ideas. Mathews makes his book as entertaining as any novel by weaving personal and professional stories and by surrounding his two stars with interesting characters." —World magazine
Richard D. Kahlenberg
Work Hard. Be Nice provides a fast-paced, engrossing and heartening story of two phenomenally dedicated teachers who demonstrate that low-income students, if given the right environment, can thrive academically.
The Washington Post
"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.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Mathews's (Escalante: The Best Teacher in America) book follows the lives of the two educators who founded the successful Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a system of 65 schools that have revolutionized inner-city education. In 1995, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, tired of urban classroom chaos, came up with KIPP to help guarantee student success from grade school to college. They fought against classroom apathy, and reached out to students through homework assistance over the phone and regular home visitations with parents. The result has been an increasing group of self-motivated inner-city kids who have raised expectations for themselves and their future. However, it wasn't easy. Levin and Feinberg were constantly tested by unbending educational bureaucrats, uncooperative parents, and budget constraints. Though the book's writing structure is a bit scattered and repetitive, it does well to convey how KIPP continues to change lives despite criticism from outsiders. Suitable for public libraries.
Washington Post education writer Mathews (Supertest, 2005, etc.) follows two dynamic teachers as they develop an effective school system tailor-made for "children stuck at the bottom of our public education system."Mike Feinberg, 23, and Dave Levin, 22, met in 1992 while working for Teach for America, an idealistic program these novice educators found of little help in coping with overcrowded classrooms serving desperately poor populations. So in 1994 they launched their own initiative, the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which offered fifth- to eighth-grade students from low-income families the chance to learn beyond what other instructors believed they could handle. The first classroom was in north Houston, but Levin soon moved on to the South Bronx. Mathews depicts both men as headstrong and protective of their students. Feinberg became known as an "unholy nuisance," and Levin continually locked horns with school administrators. The tools they employed to motivate students included incentive "paychecks" for good grades and behavior, "porching" (in-class sequestering) to discipline unruly students, commitment agreements among teachers, parents and students, and class field trips. Intermittent anarchy and chaos eventually subsided, test scores began to soar and so did media attention, including a 60 Minutes segment on KIPP. Interspersed among the chronicle of Feinberg and Levin's struggle to galvanize support for their program are three chapters detailing the progress of reluctant fifth-grade football hopeful Jaquan Hall from poorly educated misfit to responsible student. Mathews does a smart, respectable job here. Frankly elucidating the major struggles and roadblocks inherent inattempting to reform how underprivileged children are taught, he nonetheless leaves readers convinced of the truth in Levin's idealistic statement on his Teach for America application: "an educator could change lives."A grand example of humanitarianism in the classroom: Naysayers who believe there's no hope for America's inner-city schools haven't met Feinberg and Levin.
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
"This wonderful book tells the story of two young educational geniuses who created the imaginative blueprint for schools that would truly succeed in turning young lives around. KIPP is the most important educational story in America today." Abigail Thernstrom, Co-author, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning and Vice-Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
"The most comprehensive and authoritative account yet of KIPP's inception and vision." Andy Rotherham, former education adviser to President Clinton and co-founder, Education Sector.
"Educators and reformers eager to learn Feinberg and Levin's secrets, and parents and policy makers eager to find out how they might help, will find no better source than Jay Mathews' insightful, richly drawn, and engrossing tale." Frederick M. Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute
"In Work Hard. Be Nice Jay Mathews applies his superb journalistic skills to understanding one of the great education institutions in America that succeeds where others have failed: the KIPP schools. No journalist knows more about American education than Jay Mathews and anyone trying to understand it better should read himalways."William J. Bennett Former Secretary of Education Washington Fellow, The Claremont Institute
"KIPP academies are unlike any urban public schools I have encountered during 40 years as an educator: students are totally focused, engaged in uniformly demanding subject matter, always respecting their teachers and classmates, and loving the work they are doing. In Work Hard. Be Nice, Jay Mathews tells the compelling tale of the two young teachers who conceived and founded KIPP. Their inspiring story is more than one of triumph against the odds. It is a real-life parable for transforming our nation's failing schools and insuring bright futures for our most forgotten children."—Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., President & CEO, UNCF (United Negro College Fund)