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A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All
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A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  313 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Since 1990, Teach For America has been building a movement to end educational inequity in America.Now its founder, Wendy Kopp, shares the lessons learned from the experiences of more than 25,000 teachers and alumni who have taught and led schools in low-income communitiesduring those years. A Chance to Make History cuts through the noise of today’s debates to describe prec ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by PublicAffairs (first published December 29th 2010)
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Connie  Kuntz
I saw an article in Time magazine a few weeks ago. It was about Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach for America. The article promoted her, TFA and her new book "A Chance to Make History."

The article alone inspired me to read the book, but I also have ulterior motives, er, motivations. I come from a family of teachers, plus I am a home-schooler and need to stay current with the always topical subject of education, plus my neighbor is running for a seat on the Rockford School Board, plus I have numerous fri
...more
Kevin
Early on, I was excited about this book. About half way through, I realized its purpose was mainly for Wendy Kopp to brag about Teach for America. Excitement waned, and I found myself wishing she would share some great things their teachers were doing instead of just stating how great they've done.
Michelle
I read this book as part of my pre-institute work as a 2013 TFA corps member. I know opinions about TFA are super polarized, and as a new-comer to the organization I am working hard to tip toe carefully among all those opinions - I don't know enough yet to say what is true. What I do know is that, personally, I'm not trying to use under-served children or communities as a stepping stone in my career in law or business or medicine as is often a criticism of TFA corps members. I don't have a clear ...more
N.A. Ratnayake
I am very glad that I acquired the information within this book, though it is really not a great read as a book. It is a fantastically great collection of information in terms of content however. The power and relevance of Kopp's A Chance to Make History is wholly in her vision, ideas, and remarkable accomplishments -- not in writing structure or narrative.

Perhaps it is an issue of controlling expectations. As a published non-fiction book billed as containing Kopp's personal experiences in the
...more
Christine
TFA's practice of identifying bright, active young people, training them for a very short period of time, and then sending them into the country's worst (i.e. struggling) schools is either a brilliant bit of public policy, or disasters waiting to happen. Fact of the matter is that kids learn better when they have a teacher who wants to be there and TFA only places people (usually post-college kids, but occasionally mid-career/ or retirees) in school districts where no one else wants to teach. A ...more
Qwerty
While I respect TFA, I found this book a very superficial treatment of the subject of school reform. The author, TFA founder Wendy Kopp, doesn't really get much beyond the buzzwords of "high expectations," "accountability," and "transformational teaching." Besides listing one study, she also doesn't answer the critics of the so-called school reform movement. For a much better understanding of these criticisms, I would recommend Diane Ravitch's "Death and Life of the Great American School System. ...more
Missy
This book provides specific examples of how teachers and students have transformed the lives of their students. Detailing the steps that these transformational leaders have taken, the book provides a "how-to" guide to show that this transformational process is not elusive, but tangible and doable by setting aggressive goals, working incredibly hard and always putting kids interests first.

Andrea
excellent book - very thought provoking - I probably would have rated it higher if I hadn't just seen her speak in DC. A lot of the ideas in her speech were in the book, so since I'd already heard it, it didn't have as much of an impact.
Steve Guerriero
This book was a review of the impact that Teach for America has had in urban and rural schools across the country. At times the book had some good, if common sense, solutions for the problems of low student achievement and the achievement gap, and at other points the book read like an infomercial for the Teach for America program and the KIPP charter school organization (of which the author's husband is the head).

One of the best things about the book was that it drove home the idea of "transfor
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Cristiana
All in all, I appreciated the overwhelming affirmation that you can achieve stellar results for the most under-served children if you "believe in them" (i.e. set goals, communicate the goals clearly, get everyone on board (kids, parents, community), work overtime (be a "transformational" teacher), etc.). It is not a function of throwing money or equipment into a school system. Also good to learn that you can achieve incredible results if you treat the school system exactly like any other organiz ...more
Trissa
Princeton graduate decides to start a program where college graduates (all majors) go teach in inner-city schools for 2 years. She says this will help the teacher shortage, giving kids a better education (insinuates that the current staff cannot). So she uses her family/friends/school connections to raise 2.5 million dollars, just to START the program. She did this at a time when corporations were focusing on schooling and donating for the cause, so that helped her cause. But if she did not come ...more
Jaime
I read “A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All” by Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America. I originally picked up this book because it sounded like it would be about the successes that TFA members have had in the classroom and what strategies they employed to bring this success. Instead, it read as an educational policy statement and was, at times, difficult to read.

The main theme of “A Chance to Make History” is that unless school
...more
Andrew K.
“A Chance to Make History” is, of course, written by Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America -- and so it nicely encapsulates and delivers all of her experience with what seems to work in American education. It’s like taking a long walk with Wendy to get her thoughts on TFA and education. And so the book is a good read for teachers, PTA members, or education policy wonks.

However, I am neither of those -- though I certainly have had my moments when I consider dropping everything to go teach
...more
Ryan Mac
This book wavers between memoir of the first 20 years of Teach for America and a call to action to change the education system in the United States. I have heard of Teach for America before but didn't know much about it so those sections of the book were very interesting.

The author gives several examples of "transformational teaching" in mostly poor communities. She highlights the problems we have by comparing these transformational teachers with everyday teachers. What makes someone a "transfo
...more
Saleemah
I agree w/ the other reviews. This is basically a PSA to join TFA! I'm a 1st year teacher and I was hoping to find some strategies BUT...
Mark Brown
Great insight on what helps kids learn and what TFA and other organizations are doing to help.
Roger Haskins
Wow! I was thoroughly impressed by this book and the ways education can be improved. As it stated there is no one issue that is the key problem (ex. Unions) and there is no one resource that will fix everything (ex. Money). But there is so much we can do. As a parent it makes me want to be involved at the school board level to make sure the academic culture is challenging and evaluated properly and that teachers and administrators are invested in the results the children produce.
Rachel
I feel that this book was very informative about the problems around education today. I was disappointed that it seemed that her solution was to create more Teach for America recruits, because I don't think that makes sense from a policy perspective, and because I feel that it glosses over some of the bigger issues, like teacher retention.

However, this book is very readable, and a good introduction into the policy issues facing the American education system today.
Suri Barnes
I was hoping for a discussion about what is failing in education today but it was mostly about TFA and their alumni. it talked about schools they have created and what they have done in the field of education. It seems repetitive and intent on making TFA look like they have the "transformative" attitude to get the change done. It doesn't really address the bigger picture in education and leaves you feeling the way you did when you started reading-what's the answer?
Jana
It's disheartening to realize how uneducated our society is about what it takes to educate children, especially when we spend a large amount of money and resources trying to accomplish this. If everyone would read this book, (especially those involved in education, but also the rest of us who elect school boards and pay for public education through taxes), I think the state of education in this country would start to change for the better.
Jeffrey Cavanaugh
The founder of Teach for America discusses what it will take to transform America's mostly failing public schools into centers of transformational achievement for the country's poor and underprivileged. In short, it will take leadership, people, and the willingness of actors at every level of education to "do whatever it takes" to put achievement and success at the heart of the mission.
Matt
This book emphasizes the all-around excellence necessary if we're going to get serious about educating all children. A lot of the book covered material I was familiar with, but I still appreciated the anecdotes and (even more) the sense of optimism and possibility. And it was fun to have a "where are they now" section about the cast of Relentless Pursuit, a book I enjoyed.
Lisa Hawkins
. I suspect that TFA insiders would love this book, but as a curious outside observer it read more like a marketing piece than a "what works" book full of insight. The most relevant pieces of information are interesting enough, but I'm guessing that you could glean them from any number of newspaper articles or the TFA website.

Denise
Perhaps I'll return to this book at some point in the future, but for now I'm going to give up and put it on my unfinished shelf. It's been a while since I last picked it up, but from what I recall the stories were good. The problem is that each chapter repeats the same pattern, and so the book became repetitive and boring.
Hillary
Definitely good information but not totally the kind of information I feel like I need when I'm getting ready to start teaching. I want to read more about HOW to teach, not about the systemic approach to ending the achievement gap. But if you're looking for a book on that latter subject, this is a great pick!
Charlotte
I liked this book and it got me excited to work hard and learn as much as I/we can. But the further it went into the book, the less I liked it. It got more into specifics of teach for america, which I think I would have liked, but they weren't the specifics I was really interested in.
Judy
I liked her focus on the need for a comprehensive approach. She emphasizes the importance of administrative leadership and the inadequacy of relying only on better teachers, materials, or technology in turning around failing schools.
Lea
Great to read after soaking in everything from last weekend's 20th Anniversary Summit. I appreciate the humility and honesty about what it will take to effect real change in ed reform and am, honestly, only further inspired to do my part.
Jax
I really enjoyed her first book. This one is not a "story" but more of a showcasing of people and programs. It was not exactly a page turner. Book gives names of key players in the field and connects some dots.
Stephanie
Excellence requires effort, teamwork, and a passion for students. No magic bullets. No formulaic answers. That's what I thought!
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