A Chance to Make History

A Chance to Make History

What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All

By Wendy Kopp

PublicAffairs, Hardcover, 9781586487409, 240pp.

Publication Date: January 2011

Since 1990, Teach For America has been building a movement to end educational inequity in America. Now its founder, Wendy Kopp, shares the lessons learned from the experiences of more than 25,000 teachers and alumni who have taught and led schools in low-income communities during those years. "A Chance to Make History" cuts through the noise of today's debates to describe precisely what it will take to provide transformational education--education that changes the academic and life trajectories predicted by children's socioeconomic backgrounds. Sharing her experiences in some of the country's most underserved communities, Kopp introduces leaders at the classroom, school, and system levels who, driven by passionate belief in their students' potential, have set out to accomplish what most think impossible. Their inspiring stories show how we can provide children facing all the challenges of poverty with an excellent education, and that doing so involves the same ingredients that account for success in any endeavor: visionary leadership that sets ambitious goals and puts forth the energy and discipline to reach them. Kopp's experiences and insights also shine light on why we have not made more progress against educational inequity--how and why the intense but misguided quest for easy answers actually distracts from the hard work of expanding on the growing pockets of success in low-income communities--and on what we need to do now to increase the pace of change. America's failure to educate millions of children to fulfill their potential is a crisis that strikes at our fundamental ideals and health as a nation. "A Chance to Make History" offers tangible evidence that we can change direction and provide all children the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

About the Author

Wendy Kopp is the founder and president of Teach For America and the author of One Day, All Children. She lives in New York City.

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

Praise For A Chance to Make History

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.”

Time.com, 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.”

MotherJones.com, 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.”