From Publishers Weekly
The Thernstroms, senior fellows at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, deliver "a tough message" about how "to close the racial gap in academic achievement." Although the 48 graphs and tables, 566 footnotes and statistics galore may muffle the work's polemical aspects, the Thernstroms produce a case for standards-based testing and charter schools. Despite caveats (e.g., "Not all Asian parents and their children fit the stereotype... and Asian Americans are not actually one `group' "), the authors' assessment of success and failure attributes much to ethnic cultural factors. Family expectations and hard work lead to success for Asian-Americans, who embrace "the American work ethic with life-or-death fervor," while "the limited education of many Hispanic parents" and "their propensity to work in unskilled jobs that don't require a knowledge of English" underlie the poor performance of Latino students. African-American failure rests in "the special role of television in the life of black children and the low expectations of their parents." "Conventional wisdom" about improving schools (more money, improved cleanliness, smaller classes, etc.) is inadequate, they say. Title I and Head Start appear to have accomplished little, they lament, but Bush's No Child Left Behind (and its mandatory testing program) gets high praise. For the Thernstroms, ideal schools break from tradition and are liberated from such "roadblocks to change" as "hands-tied administrators" and unions. Enter vouchers (implicitly) and charter schools (quite explicitly), where the Thernstroms seem particularly taken by students chanting "answers-with claps and stomps and fists held high" and reciting "rules in unison."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Authors of America in Black and White
(1997), the Thernstroms take on the troubling and stubborn gap that persists in academic achievement between white students and black and Hispanic students, a gap that translates into a lifetime of uneven opportunities. They begin by citing statistics based on standardized test scores that verify the woeful achievement gap, which has become the burning issue in the continued struggle for racial justice. In separate chapters, the authors look at the historic and cultural factors at work in the low academic achievement of blacks and Hispanics and the high achievement of Asians, compared with white students. But the heart of the book focuses on several inner-city schools across the nation that have succeeded in educating minority children and provide models for educational reform. The success factors include independence from district control, discretionary budgetary power, and latitude in hiring nonunion teachers. Although it is sure to provoke some controversy, this book provides a thoughtful look at a pressing social problem. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved