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

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  233 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
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 socioeconomi ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Harper
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Mar 28, 2013 Patrick rated it did not like it
I came in predisposed to dislike this, and it's hard to write a book specifically about your successes without sounding egotistical, but I am not finding the beginning as sympathetic as she intends. I'll post some links in my final review that critique her claims and vision.

Finished: Bleh. Propaganda and half truths.

Here's a cynical summary: She watched a TV special on inner-city schools and "discovered" that "the schools are bad." She then talked to some anti-public education people and "found
Jul 17, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing
I normally find books about education both inspiring and depressing. This one, however, was almost solidly just inspiring. Though I maintain some skepticism about charter schools being the sought-after answer for education woes (that's the public school advocate in me), what inspired me about this book was not Deborah Kenny's journey toward starting successful charter schools in Harlem. The true inspiration came from Kenny's thoughts about what makes a great school. She recognized, before she ev ...more
Apr 30, 2013 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
"Only 29% of children in high poverty communities are reading at grade level." " There was not a single urban school district in America where all children are reading at grade level - not one." Out of 34 developed countries, the United States is ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, yet the United States spends the MOST per capita for education. Deborah Kenny is one person who sought to change those statistics. Armed with a PhD in Comparative International Education from Col ...more
Samantha Trieu
Mar 31, 2014 Samantha Trieu rated it liked it
Recommends it for: teachers, school administrators, students, dreamers
The book begins with a description of her dreams as a child and how she later coped with her husband's death. These sections moved me as a reader without boring me and making me feel as though Deborah Kenny was too dramatic or depressing. Yet, as the novel progresses, there seems to be a disconnect between her passion and emotions for her family and for her aspirations. She focuses more on the latter making me question how she balanced the two. Her aspirations and accomplishments are stunning an ...more
Feb 06, 2015 Elise rated it really liked it
This book was extremely inspiring. It followed the challenges and it brought up many important questions that need to be addressed in public schools all over - even if they are not charter schools.

Following Dr. Kenny's journey to create a school that really shared her vision (from scratch, since she did not know of a school or believe in replicating another school) was something that could inspire anyone to want to change the way that things are done in schools. I was close to tears (and only d
Jun 01, 2013 Natalie rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I thought too much time was spent on talking about meetings with "very important people". I also kept thinking about all the time she spent away from her own kids in order to start this school. I would have rather read more about the workings of the school.
Aug 02, 2012 Lyddie rated it it was ok
I almost bailed after reading the first half, which was all about her personal life and the great connections she made with Important People. The second half was more interesting, though I wouldn't say I loved the book or was especially inspired by it.
Diane Woodruff
Aug 11, 2015 Diane Woodruff rated it it was amazing
I've been retired from teaching for 6 years, so this was an odd choice. However, it was fascinating! The founder of Harlem Village, Deborah Kenny, tells the story of how and why she opened her schools. She wanted, as all teachers do, the students to reach their fullest potential. However, her school also wants the teachers to reach their potential too. Her schools allow teacher freedom to develop lessons not restricted by state standards and text book companies!!! A firm, loving structure is in ...more
Carrie Wilson
Jun 18, 2012 Carrie Wilson rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. I share similar passions about education and it is hopeful to hear such a success story. I'm pumped up for reform!
May 19, 2014 Crispy rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, education
Kenny makes her charter schools sound like paradise. Her professed ideals are laudable and her brief comments on classroom behaviour management are spot on. Despite the fact that half the book is over before a charter school even opens, it's surprisingly readable.

What makes me doubt the whole enterprise is how little teachers, students, and families feature in the story. Only a handful of anecdotes and quotations represent their views. If Kenny truly values teachers as much as she claims to, wh
Sep 09, 2012 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Oct 20, 2013 Jackalacka rated it it was ok
She is very inspiring with her story and it it does give you hope that kids in high poverty neighborhoods like Harlem, have hope and a way out and I am drawn to some of the philosophy she shares in the book. For instance the theory of knowledge workers vs. production workers and the fact that teachers are being treated like the latter which leads to no ownership and disenfranchisement. She feels that those closest to the process have a lot of knowledge but are always being told what to do by bur ...more
Sep 13, 2012 Carmen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting and inspiring quick read. Especially interesting because I am a social work intern at one of the HVA schools. I liked it, minus a few things:
-I wish she'd talked about unions a little more, explaining her shift towards distrusting them, instead of just talking about that at the end of the book. I am still a little skeptical about the anti-union stuff. I disagree with her assessment that it's all up to teachers. I agree that teachers should be held accountable, but only t
Louise Sullivan
Jul 01, 2012 Louise Sullivan rated it it was amazing
This book was so inspiring. Deborah Kenny decided that she needed to do something about inequality in education particualrly in poorer communities. So, she started the Harlem Village Academies, a series of charter schools in Harlem in 2002. Her primary focus is on excellence in teaching-accountability and freedom. I knew a little bit about this because my brother is a friend of Deborah's. However, I did not know about her commitment and the lengths she has gone to make this dream a reality. Alth ...more
Jul 15, 2012 Margaret rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a book on the new book display in the library at Union. I read it in 3 days and was really impressed with this woman and her fix for the problems of American education. I think she is absolutely right and that everyone should read this book and then make this happen. That is a pretty strong statement, but the fact is everyone should love to read and learn and we've missed the boat for far too long. A good teacher stays with you forever, and we only have a few of them to go back to. I fo ...more
I thought the book was thoughtful and genuine. teachers from Harlem Village Academies are master Degree students at my program. It is one of the transformational Charter Schools networks I respect.
Barbra Luce-turner
Sep 26, 2012 Barbra Luce-turner rated it it was amazing
In embarking on a path of reading one book about education reform, I chose Debby Kenny's book. Her core belief is that a school needs excellent teachers to succeed. Hire the right teachers and good things begin to happen. She opened two charter schools in Harlem using this belief. She also advocates that all teachers should have continual opportunities to develop themselves more in their profession.
The proof is in the pudding. One of the schools she founded led the state of New York in math sco
Jeremy Kwok
Dec 22, 2014 Jeremy Kwok rated it liked it
Shelves: education
Key things I took away from this book:
1. Interesting look at the early charter school movement and the connection to technology foundations (... connections matter)
2. Good chapters on the hiring process and developing workplace culture
3. Kenny is relentless in identifying small goals and meeting them quickly (or finding someone to help her)

(after reading this book I did some more research)

The HVA website feels more like a high-end magazine - that's something we can learn from as well

Jul 11, 2013 Mary rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading about Kenny's journey to opening a charter school in NYC. When given the task to hire teachers that were going to fit with her school model it was difficult. This is the challenge that all instructional leaders tackle. Finding a teacher that has passion, internal motivation, willingness to do "whatever it takes", and will spend countless hours perfecting their craft is a lot harder than many believe. In the end, Kenny found that a positive school culture is the biggest part of ...more
Jun 28, 2012 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Anyone who has a passion for education that truly changes the statistics and fights the negative thoughts about education should read what Deborah Kenny says about how to create a culture where passion is encouraged. After reading this book, I am beyond fired up for the changes that will happen in education. If we want our country to look different, we will have to start educating our leaders differently. This all begins with us teachers! I am beyond impressed and motivated by her book and find ...more
Jul 22, 2012 Barbara rated it liked it
Dr. Deborah Kenny's husband died of leukemia and part of her grieving/coping mechanism was to open charter schools in Harlem. She's 100% hands-on, not just a "patron" of the schools. Harlem Village Academies are child-focused, not "teaching to the test". Winning a lottery to get a place in one of these charter schools is literally a life-saver for some of these children. Gives some insight into what makes an excellent classroom teacher.
Aug 16, 2012 Lindsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was really moved by this book and the idea of pursuing a career for the sole purpose of serving others. It was really an inspiring read, a book that made me so grateful for all the amazing teachers I have had- Ms Keri in particular. More so than any book I have read before, this story has motivated me to do something, to change education as it is today, to be the change in the world that I see in my mind.
Aug 07, 2012 Tess rated it it was amazing
What an inspiration! This story about Harlem village academies has changed my views on charter schools. I just took the teachers union stance for granted but this type of school opened my eyes to how broken our current school system is. I feel that what we were doing in kinder emulated the kind of teaching displayed at HVA. Makes me proud to do my job and verifies the importance of it.
Jul 16, 2012 Esther rated it it was amazing

Best book about the teaching profession period. If you don't feel motivated about the teaching profession after reading this then maybe it's time to think of doing something else. Deborah Kenny and her team of professionals have got a formula that could transform public education into the honored profession it needs to be. What a motivating, fantastic read!!!
Wendy Pitts
Apr 18, 2013 Wendy Pitts rated it really liked it
A must read for all people interested in the future of education. A compelling story of one woman's search for the "perfect school". Told from a personal point of view which allows the reader to enter into the lives of these remarkable teachers and students; through the narrative the reader begins to believe that all people can be remarkable. Hopeful stories.
Sep 13, 2012 Meg rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! My list of people to share this book with keeps growing.

Every teacher, principal, superintendent, school board member and politician should have to read this book. Deborah Kenny hits the nail directly on the head on page 237 when she speaks of the school dilemma comes from the disrespect of teachers.
Barbara Lovejoy
Oct 08, 2012 Barbara Lovejoy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On FB I noticed that a fellow educator had "liked" Deborah Kenny, the author of this book. I had not heard of her, but was intrigued because of her dedication to low income students. Therefore, I "liked" her, too and discovered that she had written this book. I loved the book. It has definitely inspired me!
Annie Frykholm
Dec 23, 2012 Annie Frykholm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book breaks down some of the positive changes happening in education in a very reader-friendly way. It was very inspiring to take a look at the difficult process of this amazing startup and gave me hope for the future of education and intentional teaching. I recommend this for anyone in education!
Lewis Anne
Dec 02, 2014 Lewis Anne rated it really liked it
I found this book to be quite fascinating and inspirational. I know some reviews indicated a lack of eloquence in writing. The testimonial is so applicable to all of us in whatever our vocation. Radical thinking while staying true to core values and aspiring for excellence.
May 27, 2013 Leanne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
The book is inspiring, but what I liked most about it is that Deborah Kenny shares how difficult it was to put her ideals into practice. I believe passionately that we need educational reform in our nation. Deborah Kenny has written a blueprint on how it could be done.
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“Imagine a school where students work so intensely that the world outside the essay or problem or experiment before them seems muffled and far away. Their work leaves them sweaty, exhausted and satisfied. They take their work home not because somebody told them that it’s homework, but because it’s theirs, they can’t leave it behind, they’re not done with it yet. The problem still needs solving, or the question must be figured out.” 2 likes
“He said the purpose of public education isn’t to serve the public, it’s to make a public. Like Dewey believed, the purpose of public education isn’t to replicate society, it’s to transform society.” 1 likes
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