Be the Change: Reinventing School for Student Success


Be the Change tells the remarkable story of an innovative public high school launched by dedicated teachers in East Palo Alto, California, one of a growing number of low-income communities starved of the resources needed to serve its students and schools. Chronicling a rags-to-riches story of how two very different communities came together to change the historical trajectory of educational failure that had robbed so many students of their futures, Be the Change demonstrates how to plant the seeds of new possibilities in its place. The school’s unique design, modeled after successful small schools in New York City, offers authentic and engaging instruction in a personalized setting that has allowed students who start off far behind to graduate and go on to college in record numbers. Each chapter examines one of the critical elements the teachers found essential to enable student success: the creation of an academic culture, the development of high standards with high supports, and the process of learning to teach so that students can learn.

“A powerful and compelling tale about how educators, parents, and representatives of one of America's most powerful universities came together to create a school that is now a beacon of pride and hope. Their struggle to overcome the obstacles they encountered along the way will inspire others who seek to find ways to use education as a means to break the cycle of poverty and to expand opportunity and justice.”
—Pedro A. Noguera, distinguished professor of education, Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences, UCLA

“This is the story of a little school that could. Could get students to college and beyond, that is. It’s filled with evidence, quotes, and anecdotes, but more importantly it demonstrates that will and skill, aligned with vision and values, results in learning environments in which students thrive. While acknowledging the challenges, trials, and tribulations of creating and leading an urban high school, the authors share their success in a passionate and compelling way, inviting others to learn alongside them as they build successful futures for their students.”
—Douglas Fisher, professor of educational leadership, San Diego State University

“With demanding academics, loving support, and genuine affirmation, the staff, parents, community members, and other supporters of EPAA, as well as Stanford faculty and staff, present an encouraging picture of the kind of high school all young people deserve. This kind of success is not easy, but in describing how it can be done, Linda Darling-Hammond and her co-authors have provided a stirring example for all of those interested in equity and hope for our public schools.”
—Sonia Nieto, professor emerita, Language, Literacy, and Culture, College of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


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The Beginning of Hope
The Kids the Community and the Context
Personalizing School
Creating an Academic Culture
High Standards with High Supports
Learning to Teach So Students Can Learn
A Professional Place
Life After High School
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D
Appendix E
About the Authors

The Continuing Journey
Appendix A

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