Education Opinion

Our School

December 21, 2005 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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


As a San Jose Mercury News columnist who covered education for more than 20 years, Jacobs grew weary of teachers and administrators in low-income neighborhoods blaming their schools’ failures on students, parents, and each other. So in 2001, she quit her job to get an extended, up-close look at what she saw as a glimmer of hope in a bleak educational landscape: startup charter schools.

Chronicling the second year at Downtown College Preparatory, a San Jose charter whose students come primarily from poor and working-class Mexican immigrant families, Jacobs thankfully avoids many of the pitfalls common to narratives about teachers and schools in urban settings. Despite the book’s rah-rah subtitle, what unfolds within its pages is far more nuanced and complex.

The school’s principal and executive director, both former secondary teachers whose aim is to prepare low achievers to succeed in college, serve as Jacobs’ protagonists, but they aren’t portrayed as miracle workers, and the story is never theirs alone. Indeed, some of the book’s most affecting scenes take place in classrooms, where the author displays a keen eye for meaningful teacher-student interaction and an ear for how adolescents really talk.

Jacobs weaves in a discussion of some of the debates surrounding the charter movement, but she sidesteps what may be its most important controversy: their role in the push toward vouchers and school privatization. Still, this is an uplifting, realistic account of the grueling work involved in creating and sustaining a school designed for students that the larger system has left behind.


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: October 11, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 27, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 20, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education From Our Research Center What's on the Minds of Educators, in Charts
Politics, gender equity, and technology—how teachers and administrators say these issues are affecting the field.
1 min read
Stylized illustration of a pie chart
Traci Daberko for Education Week