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

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,323 ratings  ·  185 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 experienc ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published January 20th 2009 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (first published 2009)
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this book was absolutely amazing. Seeing as how i am a kipp student and i know how the system works this book was a top notch book. I personally have met Mr.Feinberg and Mr. Levin and the story of how they got started is awesome. what they are doing makes so much of a difference and shows how America is the greatest country on earth.
Stuart Nachbar
Work Hard.Be Nice is an account of the founding of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), a nationwide network of charter schools that was first founded in Houston, and first expanded in the Bronx, New York. The author, Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews, has written a largely supportive account of KIPP's progress; he writes about the founders, David Levin and Michael Feinberg with respect and awe.

Work Hard. Be Nice , combined with a personal visit to a non-KIPP charter school earlier
My rating has to do with the writing, not the KIPP idea, although I will address that later. Mathews was all over the place, & there were chapters stuck in places that made no sense. He starts the book in the middle of Feinberg's class in 1995. Jump back to 1992, when Feinberg & Levin first met. No big deal. The transition was choppy, but it made sense. From there it mostly follows the narrative of two guys learning to teach, getting better, starting out on their own...then. 43 pages in, ...more
Apr 29, 2010 Joanne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in alternative models of public schooling
Shelves: non-fiction
I've been interested in the KIPP (Knowledge is Power) schools as an alternative model, since they appear occasionally in the educational media. This book gives a great history of how two former Teach for America teachers developed a national organization of schools -- lots and lots of time invested, lots of challenges from bureaucracy, lots of unexpected bumps. It took a lot of energy and a lot of commitment, and it looks like it works really well for some kids. The critics jump on that "some ki ...more
Karen Locklear
This book spells out the problems within public education, and what will need to happen to fix it.


For children who are economically disadvantaged with parents who need help navigating through the middle class- centered public school system, this is the way to go:

Five full days with a half day on Saturday

Longer days so that study halls could be built into the schedule

After hours access to teachers.

More time focusing on fundamentals and less time focusing on things that should be seconda
The Washington Post’s Jay Matthews recently released a new book on KIPP charter schools called Work Hard, Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America, It tells the story of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) which has grown from a classroom in Houston to a program of 66 public charter schools serving 17,000 children in 19 states and the District of Columbia. More than 90 percent of KIPP students are children of color and 80 percent are low income. Students ...more
If I did not already know the story very well (I am a Houston-area teacher) I have no idea how this disjointed narrative would have come across. The 2-star's "it was ok" label is the perfect descriptor.

Also, as a Houston-area teacher, I can see through the hazy, rose-colored promotion of the KIPP system. They are good schools for kids who fall in line. They kick 1/5th of their kids out every year, right before testing, to maintain those high test scores, and their kids do not necessarily go thro
RATING: 5 out of 5

An absolutely engaging, amazing “listen” about the formation and execution of a middle school design known as KIPP by two teachers driven by their thrill of seeing kids learn.

This is an inspiring story of two young men who find their mission in life early, and don’t waiver from it no matter how many obstacles are placed in front of them. As their story unfolds, you find yourself cheering for them at each triumph, and ready to jump in and help them fight off the naysayer who thr
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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.
Emily Ellson
Work Hard. Be Nice. is a mix of education history, a biography of 2 teachers, some useful/applicable suggestions for the classroom, and a brief description on the beginnings of charter schools. Being that I am a teacher at a charter school, I found the history of the KIPP schools very refreshing. It was nice to hear about something that was so easy to relate to, since working at a charter school really can be a vastly different experience from working at a traditional public school. The few part ...more
This book was a wonderful detailed account of two Teach For America teachers who saw injustice in the schooling of underprivileged children and sought to change it. It provides a detailed and honest account of the struggles they went through in order to establish their KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) and eventually their own charter school. I definitely recommend this book to any current or future teacher specifically those who want to teach in urban settings or middle school. Mike and Levin a ...more
Writing is not the best, but I love the school. Made my first donation to the KIPP Foundation about 45 minutes after finishing.
This book is about the KIPP schools and the two teachers that made it happen. It was an okay book, to me it seemed to jump around a bit. It would talk about what was happening in 2004 and in the next chapter discussing the weeks the guys were signing up for Teach for America in 1992. I was impressed by what the guys were able to accomplish and how well the schools are doing but the book could not hold my interest, I forced myself to finish it. I think I was able to get a few good tips for when I ...more
Kevin Hall
The story of KIPP and the subsequent/related rise of voucher/charter schools. Biased as a public educator. My biggest question for the future consistency of KIPP - what will be the retention rate of young teachers who put in 9 hours of instruction time + mandatory on-call time in the evenings - especially as these young people begin to want families/a life of their own? The ideal is that all teacher would work this hard and put in this amount of time, but in my opinion it would come at the expen ...more
Should school be organized more for the convenience of teachers and administrators or for the benefit of students? The answer might seem obvious -- for the students, of course! But one of the odd effects reading Jay Mathews' book about KIPP had was to prompt me to wonder, just a little in a back corner of my mind, just how far a "students first, students always" approach can unhesitatingly be endorsed. Yes, for both students and teachers, hard work and persistence in the face of difficulty have ...more
I read "Work Hard, Be Nice" at the request of my roommate, because the organization she works for here in Tbilisi (Radarami) is translating it into Georgian and will publish it next month. She wanted my opinion on the book, and what I thought about publishing it here in Georgia. I read the book quite fast--the writing was great and I found this non-fiction story much more compelling than the novel I'm reading at the moment. There were many times reading this book where my reaction was "Yes! Exac ...more
This book pushed me since I have strong feelings for Teach for America and charter schools. However, it's apparent that the school's created by Feinberg and Levin ARE working for the kids at those schools. I am in awe of what they have been able to do, but I also find what they are doing to be unsustainable for someone who wants to teach as a career. The teachers in the book work so hard and have made these kids their entire world. Burnout must happen, but the book doesn't talk about that. The a ...more
4.5 stars. I became interested in KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) and its founders, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, after reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The high quality public school program (open to all children, but mainly focused on inner-city kids) requires students to attend school from 7:30-5:00, on Saturdays and during some of the summer. These motivated students (and their teachers) have thrived in this structured ordered environment, and they have the test scores to prove it.

What's the recipe for educational excellence? First you get two inexperienced college graduates, send them to an inner-city school, have them observe an innovative teacher in action, and throw in a pinch of idealism, energy and enthusiasm and what you get is KIPP (knowledge is power program). Levin and Feinberg straight out of Yale and Penn decided to join the, then brand new, Teach for America corps. They met at the training sessions and found an immediate connection playing basketball. Soon th ...more
The accomplishments of Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg may fall a mite short of the full superlative of the subtitle but they are nonetheless inspiring and their network of schools promising exemplars of educational reform. Mathews crafts a speedy narrative with flashbacks and sidebars and personal touches to describe the two Teach for America prodigies, one from New York’s East Side and the other from Chicago, who are transplanted to Houston, where they come under the influence of Harriet Ball and ...more
Detailed account of the co-founders of the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter school franchise, which has mushroomed nationally incl. in my city (DC Key academy). I read the author regularly in Wx Post and online, so a lot of the slant he puts on it (all kids can learn if challenged sufficiently in school; administrators are mostly obfuscatory dopes who set out to squelch innovative teaching) was very familiar.

Longer on anecdotes, including on the love lives of the protagonists, than on c
David Glad
Aside from a great history of an excellent program (Knowledge Is Power Program -- KIPP), it also has nice life lessons with -- as would especially be true of an educational bureaucracy -- power of persistence to push for results. Co-founders Mike Feinberg and David Levin really are the dynamic duo.

One of the early observations that stuck out was "Never settle for a bad product or service without complaint," where one of the co-founders instructed his students to begin calling up numbers of admin
Paul Signorelli
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 Levin�s journey from being two ...more
The book itself was well written by Jay Mathews, an education reporter from the Washington Post. Regarding the content and the idea of KIPP ( charter school) I did not like as much. The two teachers who started the charter school KIPP came from the Teach for America program, which places teachers (who don't normally get a education degree from college) into low economic and poor testing schools. After a few months of working in these schools, Levin and Feinberg come to the conclusion that the pu ...more
I heard about this book in Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" and found it really inspiring--2 teachers who "graduate" from the Teach for America program decide to create an academy called KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) for 50-75 lower-income middle school students. The kids sign contracts (as do their parents) agreeing to go to class from 7:30-5pm and every other Saturday. The teachers, Feinberg and Levin, believe that all students WILL (not can) learn, and use a variety of creative, interactive ...more
This is an engaging and inspiring story of the founding and expansion of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) schools. Founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin prove that low-income kids of color can achieve at high levels with really talented, interactive, and dedicated teachers who believe in their students and offer intensive support. KIPP teachers visit students at home, let kids call them with homework questions, and support former students in high school. Most importantly they are dedicated to c ...more
ere are some interesting thoughts from Margaret Paynich, a long-standing contributor to this blog, about Jay Mathews' KIPP book:

Work hard mural "I picked up Jay Mathews' book, "Work Hard. Be Nice." and decided to read it without knowing what it was about. Mathews tells a great story about Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin starting the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) in Houston, Texas, fresh out of Teach for America training in Los Angeles. I was easily enamored with Feinberg and Levin's passion for
While some of the writing and storytelling was lackluster, I found the facts inspiring. As an educator, this book gave me quite a bit of food for thought. This book is an expose (warts and all) of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Schools. These charter schools (now plentiful and nationwide) were started in Texas and NYC in the '90s by two Teach for America alums (Levin and Feinberg). These young men had little in the way of real teacher training. What they did have, though, were innate qual ...more
I was hell-bent on finishing this book. As painful as it was. The writing was surprisingly bad. It seemed like no one edited this book. Not for grammar, but content. The author repeated the same information over and over, jumped around, gave plenty of unimportant, uninteresting information. Maybe part of the problem for me is that I was expecting something different. I wanted to know that background of KIPP and how they got their start, but I was more interested in learning some of their teachin ...more
Jeremy Scheller
A good story. Needed stronger editing. Could have benefitted from Pedagogy.

Things I liked:

* it was told as a story including successes and failures
* it was inspiring to think that hard work pays off (A bit American Dreamish, but oh well)

Things it lacked:
* A strong editor. It was jumpy chronologically and could have used some help straightening that out.
* It was a great story, but there isn't a strong evidence for why these schools are successful. If you were to try and make a road map based on t
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