Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Mathews's sprawling narrative traces the birth and early development of the controversial Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) through the eyes of its charismatic young founders, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin. J. Paul Boehmer captures both the fiery idealism and initial navet in the voices of the two protagonists as they parlay their postcollege Teach for America stint in inner-city Houston into a bold national experiment in classroom instruction and school governance. Boehmer provides an especially memorable portrayal of Feinberg and Levin's early mentor Harriett Ball, a veteran educator whose commanding presence conveys both maternal warmth and tough determination. Boehmer only misfires once, when he fails to provide a cue that he is shifting from storytelling into an expository section analyzing the KIPP track record. An Algonquin hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 13). (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"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 USA Today
"In Work Hard, Be Nice, Jay Mathews captures the exuberance, intelligence, and plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness of two young educators. Like them, the book is filled with energy and hope. It's why KIPP schools are successful and why this book should be read by everyone who cares about education in our country. --Richard W. Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley
"A vivid account of two young men who transform themselves from 'terrible' first-year teachers into visionaries."
--USA Today AudioFile
"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)
"J. Paul Boehmer captures both the fiery idealism and initial naïveté in the voices of the two protagonists as they parlay their postcollege Teach for America stint in inner-city Houston into a bold national experiment in classroom instruction and school governance."
"Along with a fascinating palette of tone and phrasing variations, Paul Boehmer's performance adds a fitting amount of admiration for the authors' achievements."
About the Author
J. PAUL BOEHMER appeared in Sir Peter Halls' acclaimed Broadway production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband and in numerous Off-Broadway and regional productions. His film and television appearances include The Thomas Crown Affair, Star Trek: Enterprise, Voyager and Deep Space Nine, Frasier, Judging Amy, Guiding Light and All My Children. He is an award-winning audiobook narrator.JAY MATHEWS covers education for the Washington Post and has created Newsweek's annual Best High Schools rankings. He has won the Benjamin Fine Award for Outstanding Education Reporting for both features and column writing and is the author of six previous books, including Escalante: The Best Teacher in America, about the teacher who was immortalized in the movie Stand and Deliver.