From Publishers Weekly
While policy makers agree that big city public schools are failing to meet children's needs, their solutions usually involve shifting responsibility to distant figures chancellors, mayors and relying on abstract performance evaluation tools, like standardized tests. From her own experience designing and operating various alternative public schools, progressive educator Meier (The Power of Their Ideas) has a different assessment: schools must be smaller, more self-governed and places of choice, so kids and their families feel they are truly part of these communities of learning. Students need to spend more time around adults who are doing adult work, which builds familiarity, trust and respect, as well as exposure to new skills. Families also need to be brought into the mix, so they're comfortable with the school, the teachers and the educational agenda. Teachers need time and space to develop collegial relations with each other, both to improve educational practices and to model responsible critical behavior for students. According to Meier, the currently fashionable educational panacea increased standardized testing is either irrelevant to academic excellence or an actual deterrent, as teachers teach to the test and ignore everything that's not on it. Likewise, teaching children test-taking techniques trains them to distrust their own intuition about what's right or wrong. Reliance on test results (which are largely meaningless, Meier says) denies parents' and teachers' ability to assess learning. This is a passionate, jargon-free plea for a rerouting of educational reform, sure to energize committed parents, progressive educators and maybe even a politician or two.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
There is a thoughtful double entendre in the title of this latest work by the award-winning author of The Power of Their Ideas. First, as a society, we trust our schools to educate children and to transmit to them a set of democratic ideals. Second, if these goals are to be met, we must foster an environment of trust within our schools both among educators and between educators and the children they serve. Calling the school a "crucible of democratic life," Meier (The Power of Their Ideas) draws on her years of experience at "break-the-mold" schools like New York's Central Park East and Boston's Mission Hill School to describe the importance of promoting trust among all participants in the educational venture, to question the value of standardized testing and reform models devoted to high-stakes assessment, and to describe the institutional factors that can undermine reform efforts that focus on the development of small schools within the public school system. Although the narrative tying these strands of argument together is not as easy to follow as it might be, Meier effectively draws on earlier works in all these areas, e.g., Theodore R. Sizer's Horace's Compromise and Eliot Levine's One Kid at a Time, to create a passionate account of what schooling could be. For all collections. Scott Walter, Washington State Univ Lib., Pullman
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.