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PSA: BUY THIS BOOK

Filed at 1:32 am under by dcobranchi

Today is Buy Joanne Jacobs’ Book Day. (And, before you ask, I’m not getting a cut of any sales. Joanne is an internet “friend.”) It’s not all about the money every time. 🙂


Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds (Palgrave Macmillan) tells the story of a San Jose charter school that prepares students who are “failing but not in jail” for four-year colleges.

It really is an inspiring story. The average Downtown College Prep student comes from a Mexican immigrant family and enters ninth grade reading at a fifth grade level; 100 percent of graduates have been accepted at four-year colleges and 97 percent are on track to earn a bachelor’s degree. DCP now scores well above the state average on the Academic Performance Index, ranking in the top third compared to all high schools, including affluent suburban schools. DCP follows what I call the work-your-butt-off philosophy of education. Its leaders analyze what’s not working, adapt quickly and waste no time on esteem inflation or excuses.

While I discuss the charter school movement as a whole, Our School isn’t written for wonks. I think it’s a good read, sort of Tracy Kidder meets Up the Down Staircase.

My favorite part of the book is the part I didn’t write. The book includes Pedro’s rap, essays by Gil and Emilia, Roberto’s speech, a discipline report on Hector, a teachers’ list of DCP jargon, the principal’s e-mail conversations with teachers, a phony field trip permission slip created by a girl who wanted a parent-free weekend and a copy of the school’s budget.

After 19 years as a San Jose Mercury News editorial writer and columnist (syndicated through Knight Ridder), I quit in 2001 to report and write Our School. I also started what may be the first education blog at joannejacobs.com, and now draw about 1,300 unique visitors a day during the week. I’ve freelanced stories and columns for the Christian Science Monitor, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, All Things Considered, Stanford Magazine, Tech Central Station and FoxNews.com.

— Joanne Jacobs

My favorite blurbs

Our School is wonderfully written and wonderfully informative. I cannot think of another book that provides such a close and honest look at a successful charter school serving immigrant kids in grave danger of striking out in American life. The fascinating story that Joanne Jacobs tells zips along like a good novel, but it also delivers an important and optimistic message to educators who want to rescue kids.”
–Abigail Thernstrom, co-author of No Excuses and America in Black and White

“Joanne Jacobs has written a ground-breaking book about the most interesting, and potentially important, change in American schooling in the last 15 years.”
–Jay Mathews, Washington Post education columnist, author of Harvard Schmarvard, Escalante, and Class Struggle

Our School is today’s Up the Down Staircase. It’s not often a book about my profession gets it right.”–Robert Wright, teacher, Morrill Middle School, San Jose, California

From Publishers Weekly
The cofounders of the school had a clear mission: to take failing students and prepare them to attend college and do well. Students would have to break with gang culture and adopt DCP’s mantra: ganas (motivation), orgullo (pride) and communidad (community). . . DCP is enthusiastically experimental. When something’s not working (e.g., trying to teach algebra when kids don’t know fractions), they try something else. As Jacobs tells the story of DCP’s amazingly committed teachers and their (mostly) courageous students, even hardcore opponents of charter schools may soften. Some useful data (DCP’s student stats, funding summaries) and a listing of resources for people thinking of starting a charter school round out this fascinating case study. (Dec.)
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