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Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America's Children Hardcover – February 26, 2013


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Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America's Children + The Color of School Reform: Race, Politics, and the Challenge of Urban Education
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press (February 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608194906
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608194902
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with so many schools destroyed and destabilized, New Orleans was viewed as fertile ground for educational reform. Charter schools, staffed mostly by young teachers new to the area, rushed to fill the void in a city whose public schools had long been failing. Education reporter Carr chronicles the lives of students and faculty at three charter high schools, Walker, Sci Academy, and KIPP Renaissance, as they struggled to meet mounting expectations for academic performance. Carr focuses on Geraldlynn, a high-school freshman; idealistic teacher Aidan, a Harvard grad who struggled to keep pace with the ambitious goals set for the school; and Mary Laurie, a New Orleans native and veteran teacher, who became principal of one of the first public schools to reopen after Katrina. Carr deftly explores the complexities of school reform and the tensions between newcomers unfamiliar with the culture of New Orleans and educators and parents suspicious of their intent. But Carr goes beyond New Orleans to examine the broader issues of education reform in urban areas throughout the nation as students and parents are caught in a clash of cultures and ideas on how to repair failing school systems and educate inner-city children. --Vanessa Bush

From Bookforum

Hope Against Hope takes place in a New Orleans ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, but even more important in journalist Sarah Carr's story is a highly unnatural disaster: American poverty. Carr's book takes an intimate look at the real people—students, principals, teachers—affected by "school reform," a slippery term that means privatization, a weakening of teachers' unions and elected school boards, and an increasing dependence on testing data. The book is a tremendous achievement, and should be required reading on all sides of these debates. —Liza Featherstone

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Customer Reviews

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I admire particularly the principal and hope that there remains a place for her style of leadership in the schools of tomorrow.
Henry P. McNally
The general public can read and enjoy the book, but anyone who lives in New Orleans and has taught in its charter schools will find this book to be a page-turner.
Zola
Carr's depth of insight is well expressed in her written word...should be mandatory high school reading and followed up with discussion.
Kimberly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T.E. Shaw on April 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The greatest weakness of the current literature addressing educational reform is its level of abstraction. "How Children Succeed," for instance, is an excellent primer on emerging theories of what allows children to be successful in school and in life, but its personal narratives are necessarily limited and largely devoted to the researchers who are developing these theories. Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" provides a strong macro-view of the arc of school reform, but cannot dig down into the actual thoughts and perceptions of the low-level actors (teachers, principals, parents, and students). Daniel Koretz's "Measuring Up" is a thorough and nuanced account of the limitations of standardized testing design, but also lacks compelling characters and narratives. Across the board, the school reform debate has been driven by over-arching theories of elite-actor motivations and strategies. The lives of those who are directly affected by educational reform are reduced down to superficially compelling yet context-free anecdotes that can support a main thesis.

I am very happy to say that "Hope Against Hope" reverses the prevailing dynamic and focuses on the personal narratives and perceptions of those who must engage with school reform on a day-to-day basis. The trifurcated focus on three different actors within the New Orleans school system (a principal with deep roots in the local community, a Harvard TFA alum who now teaches in a new charter school, and a family with experience in both the older public new system and the new charter regime) can hardly be describes as "innovative" yet provides a desperately needed counterweight to the abstract and politically charged accounts of educational elites.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Henry P. McNally on April 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a retired high school principal who continues to believe that education is the noblest of all professions, I often cringe at the public discourse that surrounds teachers and school reform. I am torn between the need to insure that students master necessary skills, with major emphasis on testing, and the need to make education attractive, stimulating and enjoyable with a focus on promoting life time learning. I admire the results of the KIPP Charter Schools, and some who have copied the model, yet worry about the degree to which those institutions remove the human component. These are the issues with which Ms. Carr struggles in "Hope Against Hope."
Ms. Carr looks at a principal, a teacher and a family but in so doing, gives us real insight into three very different schools as well as a glimpse into the operation of others. While all are located in New Orleans, a city that has undergone immense challenges, they could almost as easily have been located in any major urban area. There are no easy answers presented, no obvious conclusions. To me, that was a welcome positive; I grow weary of outsiders to the profession who provide absolute answers before even undertanding the questions.
I came away from this book with renewed enthusiasm for the education profession and many who serve in it. I admire particularly the principal and hope that there remains a place for her style of leadership in the schools of tomorrow. The family followed by Ms. Carr certainly challenges the stereotype of urban single parent households and suggests there is indeed hope where some think otherwise. The teacher was also interesting and admirable; my reservation in his respect stems from the obvious fact that he is so different from the average beginnign teacher.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Zola on April 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this book. It is an accurate portrayal of New Orleans charter schools, and presents a balanced view of the positive and negative aspects of charter schools. The author's analysis is thought-provoking, and she opened my eyes to several important issues and changed my mind about many things associated with charter school education. The general public can read and enjoy the book, but anyone who lives in New Orleans and has taught in its charter schools will find this book to be a page-turner. You may not like everything you read in the book, but it is the truth about charter schools. This book is a welcome addition to the charter school discussion, and should be read by anyone who wishes to participate in or understand the education reform debate.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SMR on May 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While Hope Against Hope focuses on the education system in New Orleans, the stories recounted here are easily transferable to any school system with cultural and socio-economic diversity. The book is written in a narrative style, following the stories of a young female black student, a principal, and a white teacher. By recounting the true stories of different players, Sarah Carr illustrates that (1) all parties have the best of intentions, but (2) somehow this is not enough to solve the problems.
Discussion of education in an urban setting by necessity must involve a discussion of race and socio-economic status. This book guides the reader to a deeper understanding of these issues through story-telling. For example, consider the recipient of a full tuition scholarship who can't afford to pay the initial deposit or to buy the textbooks. It's great that a scholarship exists that is targeted to racially-diverse, needy students ... but it ends up not helping because it doesn't cover enough. This book is full of such examples of where intentions fall short and children pay the price.
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