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Choosing Excellence: Good Enough Schools Are Not Good Enough Paperback – January 28, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 207 pages
  • Publisher: ScarecrowEducation (January 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578860148
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578860142
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,544,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This outstanding assessment of the current state of the nation's schools is the culmination of Merrow's 25 years as an education reporter. Based on "School Sleuth: The Case of an Excellent School," a program for his PBS series The Merrow Report (which also airs on NPR), this book explores "good enough" schools, the ones that "most people settle for: schools everyone wants to believe are okay even though, deep down, they know better." Merrow aims here to help parents and others who are "determined to push and pull the system beyond `good enough.'" To that end, he examines various aspects of schooling from testing and homework to safety, values and technology drawing on years of school visits and interviews. Merrow weighs in on the current infatuation with "machine-scored" tests; teacher burnout ("we train teachers poorly and then treat them badly and so they leave in droves") and how it can be prevented; charter schools ("buyer beware"); the explosive growth of ADD ("a dubious diagnosis"); bloated administrative bureaucracy and much more. Writing lucidly throughout, he keeps his primary audience parents clearly in mind, offering, at the end of each chapter, helpful checklists for evaluating prospective schools (e.g., "Are papers marked up with thoughtful comments?"; "How serious is the school about art and music programs?"). Practical, forthright and engaging, Merrow's book should be required reading for every parent of a school-age child and for anyone who wants to see public education move beyond "good enough." (Apr.)Forecast: Since most children in America attend "good enough" schools, this book's potential market is enormous, and the author's high profile will help.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

No pre-service teacher should consider his or her professional education complete if it does not include regular viewings of The Merrow Report the documentary series now airing on PBS and National Public Radio. Building on research completed for a recent episode of that series, Merrow here provides a thoughtful discussion of "excellence in education." While highlighting issues of current concern, e.g., high-stakes testing, safe schools, and the place of technology in the curriculum, the author also provides an overview of the "best practices" in education. He shows the reader how to ask substantive questions about any school with which he or she might become involved (whether as a student, teacher, parent, or community member). Drawing on his writing skills, his experience as a teacher and reporter, and his familiarity with leading scholars and practitioners in the field, Merrow has crafted a volume containing lessons that can be put to good use by virtually anyone interested in our schools. Highly recommended for all libraries. Scott Walter Head, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

John Merrow began his career as an education reporter with National Public Radio nearly 40 years ago with the weekly series, "Options in Education," for which he received the George Polk Award in 1982. He is currently Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour and President of Learning Matters, an independent production company based in New York City.

Since 1984 he has worked in public television as a NewsHour Correspondent and as host of his own series of documentaries. His work has been recognized with Peabody Awards in 2000 and 2006, Emmy nominations in 1984, 2005, and 2007, four CINE Golden Eagles and other reporting awards. An occasional contributor to USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Education Week, he is the author of The Influence of Teachers (2011), Choosing Excellence (2001) and co-editor of Declining by Degrees (2005).

Merrow earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College, an M.A. in American Studies from Indiana University, and a doctorate in Education and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He received the McGraw Prize in Education in 2012, a Lifetime Achievement Award From the Academy Of Education Arts And Sciences in 2012, the James L. Fisher Award for Distinguished Service to Education in 2000, the HGSE Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contributions to Education in 2006, The Horace Dutton Taft Medal in 2010, and honorary doctorates from Richard Stockton College (NJ) and Paul Smith's College (NY).

He lives in New York City with his wife, Joan Lonergan, the Head of the Hewitt School. John Merrow blogs regularly at Taking Note: Thoughts on Education.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By sam sochet on May 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Not everyone involved in education is going to enjoy reading this book. This is primarily because there are books that happen to hit too close to home. Choosing Excellence is basically an indictment of teaching kids merely for the sake of performing on mandated exams rather than educating our young citizenry so they can become contributing members of an evolving democracy. In today's preoccupation with improving educational standards, Merrow believes we have missed the boat, or rather, chosen the wrong boat. Instead of improving the way we teach, we test, which, although is economically easier to justify, leads to a shoddy version of a true, growth-oriented education. The problem is, he contends, is that we end up no better than we were before, and even worse because we delude ourselves into thinking that we are making changes to help the kids. He also believes that most of our country's schools fall into the "good enough" rather than the "excellent" category of schools. The ironic aspect is that "good enough" doesn't really mean good at all, but tends to be mediocre at best. Written in a crisp and convincing journalistic style, this book is recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joe Nathan on February 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an immensely useful, irreverent look at public schools. The author is a former teacher and an award-winning journalist who has worked for National Public Radio and PBS. He is creative and extremely insightful. He says, don't use just one way to judge schools. Do most teachers leave right after the students? What do schools do if there is a bully? Is the school orderly without being rigid? Is excellent student work displayed? Is it creative, or does it all look alike? These are only a few of the excellent, unusual questions Merrow asks.
He also urges families not to make assumptions about a school - whether it's a charter, magnet or neighborhood school - it's location and classification just don't tell you enough.
This is a great book for families to read, even if they are not actively selecting a new school. Merrow describes wonderful - and awful things he's seen in schools all over the world. He is funny, creative,and immensely useful.
Joe N - St. Paul, Minnesota
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
I found this book thoughtful and engaging. I can't imagine any family concerned with the education of their child not buying this book. It is a must. Besides being a useful tool in evaluating a school, this book is a valuable collection of Mr. Merrow's experiences in his extensive career of covering the field of education.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
John Merrow's book is a thoughtful and well-informed guide to finding excellence in public education. It is both an insightful look at what constitutes excellence and a great "how to" book for parents who are trying to choose schools for their kids (I especially like "questions to ask" at the end of each chapter). Best of all, while critical throughout, Merrow remains hopeful that public education can be excellent and offers real solutions for some of the most pressing problems in education today.
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