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VINE VOICEon March 20, 2016
This book describes public high schools that are able to select high-achieving students and thus (usually) have a high-achieving student body. Most of the book is made up of profiles of individual schools; however, the authors do have some general comments at the beginning and the end. Some readers might be surprised to know how diverse these schools are: the average "exam school" is 30 percent black and 13 percent Hispanic, and 30 percent of them are majority black.

I think the book would have benefitted from some deeper analysis. For example, urban exam schools clearly achieve better results than the typical urban school- but how do they compare to suburban public schools, or urban private and charter schools? Some exam schools (including one in Louisville profiled in this book) do not have very good test scores- why not?
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on January 7, 2013
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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on April 27, 2013
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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on November 12, 2012
I attended the Bronx High School of Science which is an exam school requiring aspirants to score well on the entrance examination but with no consideration given to teacher recommendations or other criteria for admission. The author votes in favor of these other criteria which can be used to permit admission to African-Americans, Hispanics, and other under-represented minorities. The editorial in today's NY Times calls for using these other criteria too. I think that rather than dumb down the curriculum, it is preferable to make sure that every one attending a public middle school in New York City, receives the academic support needed to do well on an entrance examination. The book however, is useful as an overview of how schools for the gifted can be structured and the how students can best be prepared for their futures. Teaching for state tests has consequences, not all of them favorable.
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HALL OF FAMEon September 19, 2012
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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on September 17, 2012
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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on April 10, 2015
Very interesting, well researched book.
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on August 23, 2013
Purchased this for research related to work and it is serving its purpose. I am only looking for specific information so I am not comfortable critiquing the entire book.
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on July 26, 2013
Are we watching our school systems become even more entrenched, in which schools fall into two separate tiers? For the so-called 'exam schools' - the principal selects which students are accepted. These are students whose parents can afford to buy sports team uniforms, and trips to the Bahamas for Spring Break. It's very clear that not all bright students get accepted to these exam schools. Wrong color, and wrong income stops the deal.

As a teacher and professor, I know there are top-quality youths who won't be given any such opportunity to attend. For too many bright youths, the lack of a rich parent prevents a fair opportunity for youths who could well succeed if only they were to be recognized by those who run the 'exam schools' (with its reputation foremost in mind.)

Many talented youths of color are invisible to these 'exam schools.' Once the quota is filled for enrolling a few urban minorities, these bright, talented youths must go to schools that lack libraries, science labs, art, and music classes. It's too bad their parents can't donate a new gymnasium, or playing field. Or buy some extra teachers as they do in Westchester, NY. The fact is, most of these youths like to learn - but THEIR schools are located in the inner-city, geographically separated, and neglected by lawmakers and businesses.
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