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A blueprint for how parents can stop worrying about their children’s future and start helping the... Read More

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A blueprint for how parents can stop worrying about their children’s future and start helping them prepare for it, from the cofounder and CEO of one of America’s most innovative public-school networks

“A treasure trove of deeply practical wisdom that accords with everything I know about how children thrive.”—Angela Duckworth, New York Times bestselling author of Grit

In 2003, Diane Tavenner cofounded the first school in what would soon become one of America’s most innovative public-school networks. Summit Public Schools has since won national recognition for its exceptional outcomes: Ninety-nine percent of students are accepted to a four-year college, and they graduate from college at twice the national average. 

But in a radical departure from the environments created by the college admissions arms race, Summit students aren’t focused on competing with their classmates for rankings or test scores. Instead, students spend their days solving real-world problems and developing the skills of self-direction, collaboration, and reflection, all of which prepare them to succeed in college, thrive in today’s workplace, and lead a secure and fulfilled life.

Through personal stories and hard-earned lessons from Summit’s exceptional team of educators and diverse students, Tavenner shares the learning philosophies underlying the Summit model and offers a blueprint for any parent who wants to stop worrying about their children’s future—and start helping them prepare for it.

At a time when many students are struggling to regain educational and developmental ground lost to the disruptions of the pandemic, Prepared is more urgent and necessary than ever.
“[Diane Tavenner] asks the right questions about middle school and high school systems. What she’s done is really amazing.”—Bill Gates, GatesNotes

Prepared is the conversation we should be having as a nation. Diane Tavenner shows us how authentic, real-world learning and the essential skills of self-direction, collaboration, and reflection can be nurtured both inside and outside of the classroom, giving all parents a valuable guide for helping their children to successfully take on life's challenges.”—Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emeritus, Stanford University and president, Learning Policy Institute
Prepared tackles the question so many of us parents and educators are grappling with—how do we grow and develop our children and young people so that they can shape a better future for themselves and for all of us? This immensely readable book pulls us along through Diane’s story as a student, parent, and educator who has built some of the most acclaimed schools in the world. It serves as a powerful resource for all of us.”—Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach for All

“With Prepared, Diane shows us that we don’t have to choose between success and fulfillment for our children. They can have both. Diane created the kind of schools we all want for our kids—schools that combine rigorous academics with real-world experiences and give our children the opportunity to figure out who they are, understand what motivates them, and know how to achieve it.”—Todd Rose, director of Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of The End of Average and Dark Horse

"In a world filled with lots of parenting advice, Prepared cuts through the noise, offering a no-nonsense guide for raising curious, confident kids. Diane shares the secret sauce behind Summit’s success and how we can make sure that all kids can have the same opportunity."—Jon Deane, CEO of GreatSchools

“Diane Tavenner is one of the leading thinkers in education today—her energy and insights are infectious. There is no one better to think big about what kids need and who can roll up her sleeves to make it happen.”—Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy

Prepared is compelling and actionable. It tells the story of why all of us must work to prepare every child. We cannot allow luck or circumstance to dictate their future.”—Dr. Priscilla Chan, co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, pediatrician, and mother

Prepared is for parents and students who are fed up with the high-stakes college admissions arms race. This book brilliantly shows how all kids can succeed in college, find a meaningful career, and live a fulfilled life.”—Scott Barry Kaufman, psychologist at Columbia University and author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined

“Diane Tavenner’s courageous book, Prepared, is an intimate portrait of Summit schools—their leaders, teachers and children—putting into practice the science of learning and human development where environments and relationships drive the development of the brain. It is a roadmap by a passionate leader for anyone who sees the purpose of schooling as unleashing the potential of each and every child.”—Pamela Cantor, M.D., founder, Turnaround for Children and partner, Science of Learning and Development Initiative

Prepared is a roadmap for teachers, principals, parents and even students that paves the way for every child to reach adulthood and to thrive. Interweaving personal and professional anecdotes of how students navigate the terrain, Diane offers a new and engaging version of high school that prepares every child for college and for a fulfilled life.”—Priscilla Wohlstetter, Distinguished Research Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University

“This is a compelling and spot-on book from one of the field’s most innovative experts. Tavenner won’t rest until schools (and society) give young people what they need to thrive, and after reading this book you won’t be able to either.”—David Yeager, associate professor of psychology, University of Texas
Diane Tavenner is the cofounder and CEO of Summit Public Schools, a nationally recognized nonprofit and public-school network. Summit has been included in America’s Best High Schools by U.S. News & World Report, America’s Most Challenging High Schools by The Washington Post, and the world’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education by Fast Company. A lifelong educator, Tavenner has undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology from University of Southern California and a master’s degree in administration and policy from Stanford University.Chapter One

Because Introduction Should Mean More

The first Summit Preparatory Charter High School class graduated on a beautiful, sunny June day in 2007 in Redwood City, California, about a half hour south of San Francisco. This graduation looked nothing like any other school’s in the nation. There was no alphabetization of graduates by last name, no valedictorian, no outside speaker, no rushing of kids across the stage while the audience held their applause until the end. Just as we’d approached the school itself over the past four years, we wanted to do graduation differently, and intentionally.

We had a temporary campus that year, situated on a portion of the twenty-­two-­acre Sequoia High School grounds, and we’d borrowed the campus’s Carrington Hall for the ceremony. A historic Spanish-­style theater built in the early 1920s, Carrington had traditional orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony seating to accommodate four hundred people, and a grandeur that added a sense of seriousness and importance to the occasion. We were finally living up to the promise I had made to all of these families when they took a chance on the school. One of the things that made Summit unique was that 100 percent of Summit’s graduates met four-­year-­college entrance requirements (the national average was around 40 percent). And 98 percent (all that had applied) were accepted to at least one four-­year college.

As the school’s principal, I gathered with the eighty graduates a good block away from the auditorium so we could line up and enter the theater without parents and family seeing us beforehand, much like a bride enters a wedding chapel. Every such decision about this day had been carefully thought through.

The graduates walked in with their mentor groups. Every student had a mentor, someone who was also a teacher, as well as a group of fifteen to twenty other students they met with throughout their school career. Our mentors had developed special relationships with the students they coached and supported. Each mentor was someone the students trusted, whom they could talk to, who cared about them and their success, who met with them daily, had eaten meals at their homes with their families, and had been their advocate. Sometimes our mentors worked with their students to clarify their academic goals. But just as often, they helped them sort through a problem at home, or navigate a stressful social dynamic.

Each of the graduates was also accompanied into the auditorium by someone who had been important to their journey in life, like a parent or relative. The mentor’s efforts complemented those of the family member; together they committed to supporting the student that day, and into the future.

I stopped to straighten ties, reposition caps, to accept hugs and pose for pictures. Isabella grinned a dimpled smile as she teased, “Ms. Tavenner, are you ever going to stop fussing over us?” I poked back, “I’m going to have to. You’re leaving me.” My heart constricted at the thought, and I moved on before my emotions began to overflow.

The building was filled to capacity. Every single person rose as one to applaud as we walked down the aisle. I watched the faces of the graduates’ parents and tried to imagine how I would feel when Rett, my son, would make this walk with me. Tonight, I spied him in the front row with his father, wildly waving his five-­year-­old hand to catch my attention.

When at last the deep red, heavy curtain was raised to reveal the entire class up on the stage, the crowd exploded into cheers. The fragile control I’d been maintaining broke and tears began to flow down my cheeks, just as I was called upon to speak. Fortunately, everyone was used to me. “Ms. Tavenner is a crier,” the students would explain to the new class each year. “She can’t help herself. She loves us.”

I kept my remarks brief, because the day wasn’t about me. The whole ceremony revolved around seeing each and every individual student—­letting them know they were all valued and important. It was part of Summit’s mission. Each of the mentors told stories about the students in their group, and then, when each graduate crossed the stage, a projector flashed pictures of him or her first as a child, then as a senior, and an audio recording played of the student sharing a quote they’d chosen to capture their journey.

I knew these children, or should I say young adults, and their families. I knew how they thought, how they wrote, how they spoke and performed. I knew what they cared about, as well as their fears, and the habits they had formed and struggled with. I knew their dreams, and what they wanted from life. And though I’d participated in countless graduations before this one, for the first time in my career, I honestly knew they were each ready to go to college, to be an adult. As the audience departed the hall they spontaneously formed a human tunnel. When the graduates emerged, they were met with a cheer usually reserved for star athletes. They walked a long, loud, supportive gauntlet. And emerged, prepared for life.

As I watched them, marveling at how far they’d come, I recognized just how far I’d come along with them.

When I was in third grade, in the late 1970s, my teacher asked me to step out of class with her one day. She was a beautiful, young, popular teacher. She had blond feathered hair, held back in tortoiseshell combs, and wore fashionable bell-­bottom jeans and tall wedge heels. She loved butterflies, which adorned her classroom, and most of the girls wanted to be just like her. In my memory, she towered above me, arms crossed, leaning against a cabinet just outside the classroom entrance. I stood before her with my head down, eyes on the ground, feeling exposed and nervous.

She spoke calmly and slowly. “Diane, I’m talking with you today because you are not paying attention. You aren’t doing your work.” She paused for a moment and I felt her stare boring into me. I braced for what was to come next. She took a deep breath and continued, “And you aren’t clean. If you don’t change your behavior, your future is not going to be very bright.”

What my teacher didn’t know as she spoke those words, delivered perhaps to motivate me or at least to scare me into action, was that there had been another fight at home earlier in the week. This one was particularly bad. My mom had been hurt, and the police had taken my dad away. This time he hadn’t returned the next morning. I was afraid. And I didn’t know what would happen when my dad finally came home. I didn’t want to be caught off guard. I wasn’t sleeping because I was anxious, forcing myself to stay awake. And I wasn’t bathing because I didn’t want to be caught exposed, unprotected. My teacher was right. I wasn’t focused on doing my work. I was dirty because I was terrified. And now I was ashamed.

But I didn’t have a voice to respond to her that day. I couldn’t tell my story. I couldn’t ask for help. I didn’t have the words or the power to change my circumstances. And so I went back into the classroom, sat apart from the other students so as to not bother them with my smell, and tried my best to complete a worksheet.

Statistically speaking, I should not be writing this book. Schools aren’t constructed to support a student like me. I shouldn’t have earned the degrees I did, gotten the jobs I’ve had, or worked with the people I’ve been so privileged to work with. I got lucky. I had some key champions during pivotal moments who saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. The bad decisions I made, born from bad circumstances, were fortunately not irreparable. I tumbled my way through school and managed to land in college, where I became a psychology major, in order to try to figure out my life and myself. In an effort to earn extra credit in a general education course, I volunteered in a local elementary school. It was there where I first experienced the joy of helping someone learn. It was a feeling I’ll never forget. It was so motivating that I took every opportunity to volunteer, often staying up late into the night to prepare lessons for “my students” while my own classwork sat untouched.

I became a teacher because I thought I could make a difference for kids like me. I thought I could know them and their stories. I imagined defending them so they wouldn’t have to experience the fear I had felt. More important, I thought I could take my degrees and training and help to change their circumstances, to break the unproductive cycles I’d learned all about and thought I understood.

Product Details

Title: Prepared
Author: Diane Tavenner
SKU: BK0455281
EAN: 9781984826541
Language: English

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