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A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All Paperback – Feb 28 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (Feb. 28 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391047
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391047
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.4 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,198,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2010

“An optimistic narrative about school reform from an author with an unusual perspective… Kopp’s insistence on aiming high should make it required reading for all professional educators.”

More Magazine, January 2011

“Kopp offers a perspective on lessons learned as she spotlights particularly effective teachers and techniques that have helped poor children from underperforming schools to exceed standards and get into college. Following profiles of teachers and schools, she offers lessons that are widely applicable.”, January 6, 2011

“The group's 20th birthday coupled with its growing network of alumni means that TFA and Kopp, who is about to publish a new book and is becoming more vocal on school reform issues, will be in the news a lot this year.”

Washington Post, February 4, 2011
“Kopp's new book written with Steven Farr, ‘A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Education for All,’ offers an intriguing summary and analysis of all she has wrought…Kopp's book makes many valid if counter-intuitive points about why Teach For America makes sense.”
Education Next, February 3, 2011
“The strength of ‘A Chance to Make History’ is in documenting that genuine reform can and is taking place throughout the country.  Its limitation is that by focusing on certain key individuals in what she calls “Transformational Leadership,” Wendy Kopp has chosen not to delineate broader questions of culture, educational policy at both local and national levels, and systems of student and teacher evaluation without which no substantial and nation-wide system of educational reform can take place.”
Basil and Spice, February 1, 2011

“When I picked up ‘A Chance to Make History,’ I expected to read a glowing history of Teach For America. While Kopp is justly proud of the organization she founded two decades ago, her book goes beyond TFA to explore realistic solutions to the chronic problem of underperforming schools that turn out underperforming students. This exploration makes it a valuable addition to the vast amount of literature on educational reform.”, February 10, 2011

“High school freshmen and veteran policy wonks alike will find A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All to be accessible and engaging.”


Huffington Post, March 14, 2011

“Over the last two decades, Teach For America has become an engine for bringing talent to struggling public schools, and in the process, generated a force for reform. Wendy Kopp's recent book, A Chance to Make History, makes that case powerfully.”

School Library Jounral, June 7, 2011
I'm halfway into Wendy Kopp's A Chance to Make History, and it's excellent. Every time I visit schools, I can't stop thinking about how we can do better by kids; this covers it.”


About the Author

Wendy Kopp is the founder and chairwoman of the board at  Teach For America, the co-founder and chief executive of Teach For All, and the author of One Day, All Children. She lives in New York City.

S teven Farr , Teach for America's vice president for knowledge development and public engagement, is also the author of Teaching as Leadership.

Inside This Book

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa1e2a210) out of 5 stars 31 reviews
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2494600) out of 5 stars So inspiring! Jan. 20 2011
By Lora - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What an incredibly inspiring account of teachers, schools, administrators changing the game for kids growing up in low-income communities. Wendy Kopp has done an amazing job of showing example after example of hard work and thoughtful, purposeful actions leading to tremendous student achievement. She pushes us to think past whether we think we can make a difference and instead whether we are willing to put the energy into making history, because it is in within our reach. I am optimistic that this book and these stories can ignite the pace of change. This is a must read and will definitely be central to the dialogue on education reform.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Kazuko - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was just as I feared -- a long advertisement for Teach for America. Too many times, it came across as simply a pat on the back, oh look at me, I founded Teach for America, isn't that great. I was looking for something more substantial, with concrete pointers on how a teacher can be more effective in a classroom, how a principal might find a keep an effective teacher, which metrics can and should be measured to judge the effectiveness of a teacher or school. And there might have been more studies cited on exactly what programs were working well. Overall, a disappointment.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2494930) out of 5 stars A Second Look At Teach for America April 26 2011
By educatorpartner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
When Wendy Kopp envisioned Teach for America as part of her senior project at Princeton University, I believed that she was on to something special on two fronts.
First, the program would provide an opportunity for a recent college graduates who had not planned to become teachers a chance to" test the waters." In an era of teacher shortages, it might have served to attract new recruits into the profession who had not considered teaching previously. Second, Kopp could have made a case for a national service committment for all college graduates. With an all volunteer military,a required term of national services could have included the Peace Corps, Americorps, Teach for America or a military option.
Instead, " A Chance to Make History" focuses on Teach for America alums who moved to educational leadership rather than classroom positions.The greatest success in my view was the KIPP Academy program created by two TFA alums, Michael Feinberg and David Levin.
However, Kopp continues to champion Michelle Rhee, another TFA alum who went on to become the controversial chancellor of DC public schools. Kopp calls her a " transformational leader." Others have labeled Rhee a union busting bully. That should not have been the intent of Teach for America.
I concur with Kopp's assessmeent that there are no "silver bullets " out there" to cure the problems of public education in America. But given the current war against the teaching profession being waged by a number of governors, Kopp would better serve the profession by convicing TFA alums to stay on the front lines in the classroom and help students. That can help make Teach for America an enduring success.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2494e58) out of 5 stars All kids deserve an excellent education! Jan. 20 2011
By aviva - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I keep fairly abreast of the education reform movement, and have seen films like The Lottery and Waiting for Superman. As someone who grew up in a low-income community and went to public school there, academic achievement was always going to be my path to the wide world beyond my rural town of 5,000. Very few of us realized that dream, which we had all shared at one point or another, and slowly by slowly, often saw slipping away.

Beyond believing that absolutely all children are capable of amazing things and each one deserves an excellent education (that they're just not getting right now) - this book really brought home the many ways we all contribute to seeing this dream realized. Yes, we need exceptional teachers who will do whatever it takes - and there are many anecdotes of when this alone can change the life path for a student. We also need families, communities, school and district leaders, our elected government officials - and everyone in between. I hope my husband and family and friends are ready for me to recommend this book to them at every opportunity - because I think this is something we should all read, discuss, and take action on.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2494e70) out of 5 stars Apples to Oranges Aug. 20 2012
By Blackberrypeak - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This review is of the unabridged audio book version of "A Chance to Make History" by Wendy Kopp.

I was hoping to find inspiration in Wendy Kopp's book but instead found the entire book to be an advertisement for KIPP Charter Schools, and organization headed by the author's husband, Richard Barth. The book also functions as a propaganda tool for Wendy Kopp's "Teach for America" non-profit organization" which pays Kopp generously for her services, $265,585 in 2008 for example. Richard Barth was paid over $300,000 by KIPP the same year. So it appears the couple is not entirely driven by altruism in their pursuit of education excellence. KIPP schools are referenced and promoted hundreds of times through the book by Kopp.

Kopps' argument that KIPP schools are superior to regular public schools is correct. However, Kopp refuses to explain why and how the KIPP schools outperform regular public schools serving essentially the same communities. In her book she touts the outstanding improvements in test scores and graduation rates, but is reluctant to explain the results other than hard work, "heroic teaching", going above and beyond, and expecting greatness, etc. But a closer look reveals that KIPP schools, the kind Wendy Kopp says are superior to regular public schools, enjoy better funding, higher paid teachers, and retain superior students over time.

In truth the reason KIPP charter schools outperform regular public schools is that the teachers and the students are cherry picked through a process of attrition. A study published by Western Michigan University and jointly released by Columbia University in 2011 showed that KIPP schools receive greater amount of public funding and have higher drop out rates than do other public schools in the same communities they serve. While KIPP school leadership states that if a student finishes middle school at a KIPP school they have a 95% high school graduation rate, the study found, quote (Baltimore Sun) "But nationally, the report found, on average about 15 percent of students drop from KIPP cohorts every year, compared to 3 percent in public schools. Moreover, between grades 6 and 8, about 30 percent of KIPP students drop off of the rolls." That means that superior students are retained at KIPP schools and inferior students are dropping out. Furthermore the study found, quote (Baltimore Sun) "The report also concluded that KIPPs high outcomes, when compared to public schools, could be a result of serving significantly less special education students, and English language learners--two populations that are more prone to be less competitive academically and more expensive."

Although KIPP schools are said to have something special, it turns out the something special is more funding. Their teachers are paid more than regular public school teachers, and the KIPP schools also receive more federal dollars and more public funding overall than regular public schools. Quote (Baltimore Sun) "Researchers also found by using a federal dataset on school finance, that for the year 2007-2008, KIPP received more per-pupil public revenue ($12,731) than any other comparison group. "Charter schools don't generally receive more than public schools, but KIPP does," Miron said. "It's remarkable."

In addition to getting more federal and public funding, KIPP schools receive thousands of dollars in private funds per student.

KIPP schools have longer school years, and as Kopp states, longer school days. Teachers who don't share the vision of sacrificing mornings, evenings, and weekends for the mission are removed from the staff according to Kopp (she says most discover themselves to be inferior teachers and then voluntarily resign).

So in conclusion, through greater funding, and selective student and teacher detainment, and greater teacher pay, KIPP schools out perform regular public schools. However, the comparison of one of apples to oranges. Unfortunately, students who don't earn a place in a KIPP school by way of lottery, or by way of parental interest and follow through are left to attend schools without the many financial and selective culling advantages of KIPP schools.

Kopps' books is dishonest in that it shows only the superior performance of KIPP schools, without revealing the underlying advantages of how charter schools are allowed to construct an unfair advantage into their educational system. Since she and her husband have a huge financial interest in the promotion of the KIPP school myth, her book "A Chance to Make History" must be considered propaganda for so-called school reform that in reality is proving only that greater teacher pay, longer school hours, and selective culling of staff and students leads to better test results and graduation rates.