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So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools Paperback – April 30, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1891792885 ISBN-10: 1891792881 Edition: Third Printing, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Education Press; Third Printing, 2010 edition (April 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891792881
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891792885
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A brilliant, thoughtful, and provocative analysis. Charles Payne shows why almost thirty years of school reform has brought so little change to urban public schools. Rooted in the reality of the Chicago Public Schools, Payne s book contains lessons that are relevant to schools everywhere. --Pedro Noguera, New York University

This is a wonderful book, absolutely essential reading for educators, policymakers, and community and civic leaders who are committed to creating schools that promote high achievement for Black and Latino students. Payne helps us understand the challenges and possibilities for the transformation of urban schools. This is a smart book one that should change our conversation about the reform of urban schools. --Theresa Perry, Simmons College

Charles Payne s book is likely to anger teachers and administrators, conservatives and liberals, school reformers and the foundations that fund them. All will see themselves depicted as naïve about what it takes to improve urban schools. Many will see themselves depicted as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. At the same time no reader who has spent much time in urban schools will deny the accuracy of Payne s insights for example, about why improving high schools has proved so much more difficult than improving elementary schools, why more resources alone won t produce successful urban schools, and why the choice of a particular whole school reform program is not the critical decision. While his analysis is deeply sobering, Payne shows that improvement in urban schools is possible and indeed that significant improvements have already taken place. --Richard J. Murnane, Harvard Graduate School of Education

About the Author

Charles M. Payne is the Frank P. Hixon Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He is the author of numerous books, including I ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (1995), which won awards from the Southern Regional Council, Choice, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Gustavus Myers Center for the study of Human Rights in North America. Payne has served on the board of the Chicago Algebra Project, the Steering Committee for the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Research Advisory Committee for the Chicago Annenberg Project, and the editorial boards of Catalyst, Sociology of Education, and Educational Researcher.

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Customer Reviews

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That's one way of describing Payne's perspective.
Robert A. Watts
In all, this is an excellent book and a must read for urban educators, and for anyone involved in the reforms sweeping our schools.
Jeffrey R. Snyder
This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while.
Karin Chenoweth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey R. Snyder on September 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is an exceptionally fine and well balanced review of the reform movement. Many believe that reforming urban schools should be easy, and many have tried, from the left and the right to bring reform over the last twenty years only to learn that it isn't so easy after all. This book is full of interviews with influential reformers and with research about their programs. The author himself is closely involved with the urban school reform movement in Chicago. In all, this is an excellent book and a must read for urban educators, and for anyone involved in the reforms sweeping our schools.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Watts on May 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Our national dialogue about race, poverty and education reform would take a giant leap forward if reporters and interviewers would bring Charles Payne into the discussion. This is one of the most thoughtful books on education and poverty that I've encountered in some time. Wisdom. That's one way of describing Payne's perspective. He has read seemingly everything--every study on education in every city, by every foundation--and he sorts through this mountain of research in a helpful and honest way.
I'm a big fan of Payne as his previous work, I've Got the Light of Freedom, which analyzes the civil rights movement in Greenwood Mississippi in the Mississippi Delta. In that work and in this one Payne combines the skills of a historian, a social scientist and a novelist.
Several points stay with me almost a year after reading this book:

1.) The fragility of progress--yes, inner-city African American children can make progress in educational achievement without changes in poverty. But such progress is often quite quite fragile and gets reversed quite easily.

2.) The story of the Chicago schools where principals from the most successful schools were promoted to administrators, and their former schools lost ground. The skills of a good principals are tricky and difficult to identify apparently.

3.) The negative attitudes of a group of African American teachers who greeted the white trainer from James Comer's School Development Program. If anyone doubts that blacks can be racist and racist in a thoroughly self-destructive and backward way, read Payne's analysis of how these teachers brought all kinds of suspicion to training sessions led by white people.

4.) Payne's willingness to offer critical words about poor people.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Steven R. Rogg on August 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Charles M. Payne gets it right in this reflection and, to some degree exposé, of educational reform. The text interprets a breadth of research primarily from the Consortium on Chicago School Research, Catalyst Chicago, and a rich smorgasbord of the more nationally recognized reform programs and initiatives.

Anyone who believes that they have some promising ideas about how to go about transforming schools should first read -- and seriously debate -- Payne's book. It will provide both a reality check and strategic insight. And those who's work is somehow related to education reform should probably read the book more than once, perhaps on some regular basis.

While the book is about a topic that, at least from my perspective, is "dead serious", the text is highly readable and often humorous. It reveals both personality and attitude; artfully drawing the reader in.

My only disappointment (and I was far from disappointed with this book) is that the author's treatment of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) numerous and substantive contributions to mathematics and science education reform may deserve more credit and coverage. Authoritative research on the impact of NSF-funded programs is available from SRI International, Horizon Research, Inc., the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (ACER), Systemic Research, Inc., and others. Understandably, the author does not promise a comprehensive analysis of all major reform efforts.

The annotated glossary of reform programs is another reason to add So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools to your professional library. It could also be required reading for education leaders. It is my hope that Professor Payne has already sent a complementary copy to Mr. Arne Duncan.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Karin Chenoweth on May 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while. If I had realized how good it is I would have read it much sooner. I don't know of another book that does a better job teasing out the important points of research and connecting it to real stories of real schools.

I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in school reform.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. Tenny on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After spending more than thirty years working in urban education, I have finally found a lucid description of many of the things I experienced as a classroom teacher and administrator. Hopefully the education community will use Dr. Payne's observations and insights in their efforts to improve urban education.

T. Tenny
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on April 13, 2013
Format: Paperback
'So Much Reform, So Little Change' is a much needed book about the endemic failure in our nation's schools, despite numerous reforms, especially in those lowest performing inner-city schools. Payne' content draws upon his two decades as a Chicago inner-city teacher, anecdotal accounts, and a synthesis of research from several areas. In a classic line, he contends that 'the essential problem in our schools isn't children learning; it is adult learning.' Researchers have generated significant bodies of knowledge, but practitioners and the general public haven't learned from this - the mistakes are repeated and 'research on educational reform often rediscovers the wheel.'

Continuing, Payne concludes that our schools suffer from overly entrenched political and self-serving ideologies, disengaged or openly confrontational parents, and a failure to effectively act on the fact that schools are strongly influenced by social and economic conditions in the local environment.
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