Mary Cullinane and Frederick M. Hess, eds.
Harvard Education Press
Even though it hasn’t graduated its first class of seniors, the School of the Future in Philadelphia—a Microsoft-supported, high-tech, high school serving mainly low-income kids—has become one of today’s most-studied living test tubes for whole-school reform. This insightful book is full of some important and sobering lessons on its promise and perils. Its chapters include contributions from SOF teachers and administrators as well as policy analysts and scholars (including Fordham’s Finn). One bothersome question arches over all of them: How much do we care about “scalability”? The editors write in their introduction that “SOF is particularly noteworthy because of its declared intent to craft a reproducible and scalable design.”Indeed, the school’s founders explicitly decided not to make it a charter school to prove that transformation could come even to regular public schools operating within district regulations. In so doing, however, they subjected their venture to untold risks and restrictions, even as they built a very intricate curriculum from scratch and invested an enormous amount of time customizing technology. Whether this heavily studied test-tube school ever leaves the lab remains to be seen. Buy it here.