"It's Being Done": Academic Success in Unexpected Schools

Liam Julian

Karin Chenoweth
Harvard Education Press
2007

The author, Karin Chenoweth, an education writer who from 1999 to 2004 produced columns for the Washington Post and is now at Education Trust, knew before penning this book that poor and minority kids, when taught well, were capable of achieving academic success. She had lots of anecdotes to support her view, but precious little data. So, in typical Ed Trust style, Chenoweth decided to comb through the numbers, find the schools that were posting high test scores with populations of poor and minority students, and then report on them. This book is the result. It profiles fifteen neighborhood public schools (the author, not wanting to report on any schools that "select" students, did not evaluate charter schools) across the nation. Some are urban, some rural; some have traditional calendars, some year-round; some have good facilities, some poor. But they all share certain attributes which, Chenoweth posits, are key parts of their success. They do not teach to state tests; they have high expectations and welcome accountability; they embrace and use data; they pack the school day and use time wisely; and they make decisions based on what's good for kids, not adults. The "demography is destiny" crowd--the folks over at the Economic Policy Institute, the creators of Education Week's latest Quality Counts report, Charles Murray--would do well to read Chenoweth's book and see for themselves how students of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, given the right support, can do well in the classroom. And educators of all persuasions could glean many ideas and inspiration from the schools profiled herein. For more information about this forthcoming book, see here.   

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