Crash Course: Imagining a Better Future for Public Education

Liam Julian

Chris Whittle, Riverhead Press
September 2005

America's repeated failures to reform its schools do not stem from a lack of books on the subject so much as from a lack of inventiveness, effort, and practical ingenuity. So works by those forward-thinking individuals making education reform a reality are welcome. Chris Whittle, founder and CEO of Edison Schools, weds his practical success to words in his new book, Crash Course: Imagining a Better Future for Public Education. Edison Schools have changed the way hundreds of thousands of students receive public education. Whittle offers no apologies for decrying the vestigial components of American schools and putting forth a capital-driven, business model as the basis for education reform. If the unorthodox flavor of his positions is shocking, the success of many (but not all) of his schools is even more so. For example, Whittle presents data from Montebello Elementary, a perennially failing school in one of Baltimore's roughest neighborhoods, and a real Edison success story. Between 2000, when Edison took over the school's management, and 2003, student achievement scores at Montebello tripled. Whittle's point: Students are capable of learning and performing - they simply need better-structured schools and better-structured curricula to teach them. Not everyone is convinced, though, and some readers have found Whittle's actions and words to be less than inspiring. James Glassman writes in the Wall Street Journal that Crash Course's reform prescriptions are akin to "incrementalism" and show how Whittle "has capitulated to the public-education establishment and lost his revolutionary zeal." Information about the book is available here.

  

"An Entrepreneur Goes to School," by James Glassman, Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2005

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