Saving the School: The True Story of a Principal, a Teacher, a Coach, a Bunch of Kids, and a Year in the Crosshairs of Education Reform

The winds of accountability have closed the doors of some failing schools. But most stay open, struggling (often unsuccessfully) to boost student achievement. Michael Brick’s Saving the School tells the story of Austin’s Reagan High, a school that did weather the storm and improve. The book is structured as a narrative that follows a few main characters: the principal, a young science teacher, the basketball coach, and a star student athlete. Through schmaltzy prose, one can glimpse some worthy policy guidance. Above all: Hire a driven, mission-oriented, and strong leader, then inject classrooms with teachers of the same ilk. At Reagan, the principal scoured the neighborhood to locate truants. The science teacher opened her home to her students for Bible study, free meals, and a sympathetic ear. The coach’s deep and enduring connection to his team helped revive the school’s flagging spirit. And the students responded. Brick forces readers to think about teacher quality and its enormous effect on students, especially those who struggle, and he reminds us of the power of expectations. The most concrete lesson of the book, an important message in and of itself, is that when policy hits practice, things get complicated.

SOURCE: Michael Brick, Saving the School: The True Story of a Principal, a Teacher, a Coach, a Bunch of Kids, and a Year in the Crosshairs of Education Reform (New York, NY: The Penguin Press, 2012).

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