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Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools Hardcover – September 16, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691156670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691156675
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"As we try to make sure that no child gets left behind, are we keeping others from getting ahead? Or, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett put it in Exam Schools: 'As the country strives to . . . close its wide achievement gaps [and] repair its bad schools . . . is it also challenging its high achieving and highly motivated students?' This isn't an easy question to answer. . . . The information they do collect is helpful."--Naomi Schaefer Riley, Wall Street Journal

"As we strive to offer better educations to all students, Exam Schools takes the important first steps toward illuminating an option that may eventually have resonance for our public school system as a whole."--Rachael Brown, New Republic

"A cogent exploration of the struggle to balance equity and excellence in America's most academically selective public high schools. . . . A fact-driven, clear text that will be of interest to educators as well as parents of students at selective public high schools."--Kirkus Reviews

"Could, and should . . . academically selective public high schools play a more expansive role in educating the nation's high-potential, high-achieving students[?] These are some of the questions that longtime education pundit Checker Finn, joined by educational consultant Jessica Hockett, set out to answer in their book."--Erik Robelen, Education Week

"[E]ye-opening . . ."--Jay Mathews, Washington Post

"The subject is one of serious interest to colleges and universities because many of their best-prepared and motivated applicants come from these schools. These are schools and students college admissions officers and professors will want to know about."--Peter Cohee, National Association of Scholars

"[T]his book raised important new questions and illuminated largely unknown facts. . . . Finn and Hockett have done something rare in public policy debates: They've raised new issues."--Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post

"If you are interested in giving your child or children a superior education, this book is a must-read."--Nano Khilnani, Biz India

From the Inside Flap

"As a proud graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for the importance of exam schools in our educational system, and this book arrives in the nick of time. Finn and Hockett pull back the veil of mystery surrounding these schools to show us where they've succeeded, where they've fallen short, and what we can learn from these remarkable institutions to improve the education of all Americans."--Andrew Lo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Looking at America's most selective public high schools, Exam Schools determines what ingredients are necessary for developing an outstanding secondary school in a public context. Giving us reasons to believe that education reform is possible, this illuminating book will restore optimism, help us find a direction, and chart our course. Anyone who cares about American education should read it."--Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, author of Big Man on Campus: A University President Speaks Out on Higher Education

"This engaging book investigates the important but woefully understudied phenomenon of academically selective public high schools in the United States. Given that there is virtually no systematic research available on this topic, Exam Schools fills a critical gap."--Martin West, Harvard University

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
When discussing magnet or exam school, this is a great book to read before discussing pros and cons of such schools. Whileas we discuss much about "no child left behind", in general, we seem to feel gifted kids will do fine without special assistance. This is farther from the truth. They need just as much help but for a different reason. Just as in Olympics, you need peer pressure to further excel to reach their full potential. Magnet or Exam schools fulfill this goal. Also, just like Singapore was a model for other Asian countries including China in recent, magnet or exam schools are the models for other public high schools to emulate to the best of their capabilities.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on September 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Over 100,000 students enroll each year in selective public high schools. 'Exam Schools' examines 165 of these schools located in 30 states and the District of Columbia to determine how they work. Almost all the schools have far more applicants than they can handle. Their overall student body is only slightly less poor than U.S. public schools overall. Asian-American students are over-represented (21% of enrollment, vs. 5% in all public high schools; no surprise), but so are African-Americans (30% of enrollment, vs. 17% in all public high schools. White and Hispanic students are under-represented. Chicago, D.C., N.Y.C., and Philadelphia have many such schools, while L.A., Denver, and Minneapolis have none. Enrollment ranged form 68 students to nearly 5,000.

Most of the teachers belonged to unions and were paid on the 'contract scale,' though some receive additional compensation for longer days and extra duties. The pupil-teacher ratio (17:1) is higher than public high schools overall (15:1). The percentage with doctoral degrees is higher (11%, vs. 1.5%). Hiring decisions are made at the school level. Homework assignments are heavy, and numerous extra-curricular opportunities exist.

How effective are these schools? Studies by researchers at MIT and others found 'little impact on SAT scores, college enrollment, or college graduation.'
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James M. Skinner on January 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One of my grandson's was home schooled because the school district was not challenging him. Neither him nor any of his friends had any trouble getting into college. They all had very high test scores so the transition from homeschool to college was hardly a bump in the road for these young people. I throughly enjoyed reading about the schools that the writer's talked about in Exam Schools and the opportunity the kids are given to be a part of a select group.

I have to admit that is seems as though they did a tremendous amount of research to write about these schools from very different demographic areas of the country and the most amazing thing about the book was the corporation of the schools.

I would highly recommend this book to all parents.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Peter Cohee on September 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
While current educational reform policies in the U. S. are almost exclusively concerned with the "achievement gap" phenomenon, little attention has been paid to the needs and conditions of our brightest and most motivated pupils. Drs Finn and Hockett have approached this subject by a hitherto-unused avenue: selective or "exam" public high schools. Their study also opens up new evidence for discussing excellence vs " diversity" and the merits of school choice. It also helps to clarify what we mean by a "good" school. See fuller review at(...)
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