A school that works

Have you heard of Joanne Jacobs? She's a former San Jose Mercury News editorial writer and Knight Ridder columnist whose beat (at least in recent years) has been education. I've consistently enjoyed her articles whenever I've read them, and you can track what she's writing here, at her website. A few years ago, though, Jacobs stopped her regular editorial and column work to write a book. But why am I telling you? Here's Jacobs in her own words:

I’m trying to engineer a blogburst for my book, Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds (Palgrave Macmillan). The book follows the principal, teachers and students at Downtown College Prep, a San Jose charter high school that prepares students who are “failing but not in jail” to succeed at four-year colleges. The charter school’s educational philosophy is: Work your butt off. Students, typically underachievers from low-income Mexican immigrant families, aren’t told they’re wonderful. Teachers tell them they’re capable of improving, which turns out to be true. On California’s Academic Performance Index, Downtown College Prep is a 7 out of 10 compared to all schools, a perfect 10 compared to similar schools. All graduates go on to college.

While the book discusses 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. So far, it's received excellent reviews in the Wall Street Journal, Sacramento Bee, Washington Post, New York Post, Rocky Mountain News, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Publishers Weekly and others.

The book is in some, but not all, book stores and is available through Amazon

After 19 years as a San Jose Mercury News editorial writer and Knight Ridder columnist, I quit in 2001 to write Our School and to start an education blog, joannejacobs.com, which averages 1,300 visitors a day.

With all the despair about educating "left behind" kids, I think people need to hear about a school that's making a difference.

Thanks for helping.

– Joanne Jacobs
joanne@joannejacobs.com
joannejacobs.com
ourschoolbook.com

Reviews

“Joanne Jacobs's Our School, a vivid account of the creation and first years of a charter high school in San Jose, Calif., . . . reads like a novel whose characters are both stereotypical and improbable. . . But this isn't fiction. The challenges are real, the stakes high, the lessons important — and the achievements extraordinary.”

Henry Miller, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 17, 2005

“Our School (Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2005) is eye-opening, chilling and inspiring. Up-close and personal, it follows the lives of the students, parents and faculty who had faith that they could break free and succeed.”

Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, Nov. 20, 2005

"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

"Our School at once illustrates the possibilities and the challenges of urban education. But it's the former that makes it an exciting and important book."

Andrew J. Rotherham, New York Post, Jan. 29, 2006

"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

“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.”

Publishers Weekly

It sounds like a wonderful book. Check it out, and participate in this blogburst by copying this post to your own site.

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