I read this book on a plane. It's a fascinating story, but could have used some serious editing, particularly with respect to chronology. There was too much jumping ahead and then rewinding, which was confusing, especially because the story moved between New York and Houston after the first several years and it was sometimes hard to keep straight which school we were reading about. I don't like the recreated dialogue convention -- obviously, no one was taking notes during all of these conversations and confrontations over more than a decade. And do all of the physical descriptions of the major players (other than the two teachers) really add to our understanding of this story? Do we really need to know when Feinberg and his wife-to-be began their physical relationship?
With regard to the small section devoted to empirical research, I believe that the author has too easily dismissed the observation that the students attending KIPP schools are not randomly selected. Although their family socioeconomic background may be identical to students who are languishing in nearby non-KIPP public schools, each of the KIPP students who perseveres in this program, and their parents or other relatives, has freely chosen to be there -- to do the extra work, to put in the extra time, and to push themselves. The relatively high dropout rate in some KIPP schools illustrates that this approach is not a panacea for all lower-income students, especially those non-immigrant students whose parents are so mired in their own dysfunction that they would never even consider a program like KIPP. (The differences the teachers noted between the Hispanic immigrant families in Houston and the mostly black families in New York was profound, and perhaps deserved more attention in the book.) And although Feinberg and Levin may not have wanted to make much of their gender, the fact remains that much of what they achieved was made possible, at least in the early years, by their being big guys who could deal with troublesome boys in a way that petite women usually cannot. For most fifth graders, a young and energetic male teacher is a novelty, and these teachers clearly made the most of it.
Having said that, I think that this book should be required reading for all inner-city teachers and, especially, administrators.