Our School

The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School That Beat the Odds

By Joanne Jacobs
(Palgrave Macmillan, Hardcover, 9781403970237, 256pp.)

Publication Date: November 24, 2005

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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Honest, engaging, and inspiring, Our School tells the story of Downtown College Prep, a public charter high school in San Jose that recruits underachieving students and promises to prepare them for four-year colleges and universities. The average student enters ninth grade with fifth-grade reading and math skills. Many have slid through school without doing homework. Some barely speak English.
Tracking the innovative and pioneering program, award-winning journalist Joanne Jacobs follows the young principal who tries to shake the hand of every student each day, the dedicated teachers who inspire teens to break free from their histories of failure, and the immigrant parents who fight to protect their children from gangs. Capturing our hearts are the students who overcome tremendous odds: Roberto, who struggles to learn English; Larissa, a young mother; Pedro, who signals every mood change with a different hair cut; Selena, who's determined to use college as her escape from drudgery; the girls of the very short, never-say-die basketball team; and the Tech Challenge competitors. Some will give up on their dreams. Those who stick with the school will go on to college.
This gritty yet hopeful book provides a new understanding of what makes a school work and how desire, pride, and community--ganas, orgullo, and communidad--can put students on track for success in life.

About the Author

Joanne Jacobs is an award-winning columnist who covered education for the San Jose Mercury News for more than twenty years. In recent years, she's written for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Christian Science Monitor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, San Francisco Chronicle, and Reason Magazine. Her pioneering education blog, JoanneJacobs.com, has drawn more than one million visitors. She has tutored sixth graders, ninth graders, and college students.

Praise For Our School

"a vivid account…Ms. Jacobs brings to life the experience of particular kids and teachers but also, rightly, raises the big questions about charter schools...a success story worthy of Hollywood"--The Wall Street Journal

"I was sorry to see the book end...an inspiring story that features some pretty inspiring people...If schools like DCP can work their magic on even a modest percentage of children who would otherwise drift into the equivalent of an educational coma, it's worth it."--Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly

"Our School 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...The book is a call to arms for our best teachers: Rise up, take the initiative, take back the schools."--Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee

"Jacobs gives her audience a first-hand, no-holds-barred look at why charters can work. People. No other book on the bookstore shelves today tells the charter story as well."--Education Gadfly

"A persuasive brief for an alternative kind of public education."--Kirkus Reviews

"A bold story about a gutsy pair of education reformers...Jacobs takes the reader into the lives of the struggling students as they shed their troubled pasts and learn to appreciate the rules and strive for a future in college...This is the kind of Cinderella story that charter schools offer all over the country. Thank you, Ms. Jacobs, for telling it."--Center for Education Reform Newswire

"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. If the rapid growth of charter schools continues, every district in the country will soon have one, and everyone needs to know, as Jacobs explains, where they came from and why they are needed."--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

"The more true tales we read about successful charter schools - and the gritty determination and endless frustration of those who yearn to start them - the more American education is going to improve. We need constructive examples of real people making a real difference with real kids in schools that work, schools that didn't even exist before. Joanne Jacobs has unearthed such an example, and she tells its story in a vivid, insightful, and inspiring way."--Chester E. Finn, Jr., Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and President, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

"Joanne Jacobs is an experienced journalist who is sensitive to her subjects and has a gift of storytelling. This is a profound book on a fascinating school in the 21st century."--Richard Colvin, Director of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University

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