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No Excuses : Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0891950905
ISBN-10: 0891950907
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

While the current education debate focuses on funding, a new study of low-income schools finds the key to academic excellence is not dollars, but educators who instill a passion for achievement and refuse to accept failure. In No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools, Samuel Casey Carter, a former Bradley fellow at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, highlights schools whose predominantly low-income Hispanic and African-American students score significantly above the national average in core subjects. The common thread: principals and teachers who demand excellence and reject the notion that poor kids can't learn. Although at least 75 percent of the students in these schools come from low-income families, they score in the 65th percentile or higher on national exams. Nationwide, schools with 75 percent low-income students typically score below the 35th percentile. "No Excuses principals reject the ideology of victimhood that dominates most public discussion of race and academic achievement," writes Adam Meyerson, Heritage vice president for educational affairs. "They do not dumb down tests and courses for black and Hispanic children; instead they prove that children of all races and income levels can take tough courses and succeed." Jaime Escalante, the former Los Angeles calculus teacher featured in the movie "Stand and Deliver" notes, "The principals in this book are not superheroes. Other schools can match their performance by setting high standards and encouraging ganas, the desire to learn and achieve, among children of all social and economic backgrounds." These principals show what would be possible if public school systems began to encourage and reward this level of success--success that could be replicated at schools nationwide. Despite large class sizes (35 per classroom in one school) and shoestring budgets, these educators produce outstanding students, undermining the pervasive myth that only "rich kids" can do well in school.

About the Author

Samuel Casey Carter is a former Bradley Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Carter previously served as executive editor of CRISIS, the monthly journal of religion, culture, and public policy founded by Michael Novak.

He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Mathematics from St. John's College in Annapolis. He studied for his licentiate in theology at Blackfriars, Oxford. He is now finishing his doctoral dissertation on the Phenomenology of Jacob Klein for the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Heritage Foundation (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891950907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891950905
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Valentine on April 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
If there's any book that works like a coach in a locker room giving a half-time pep talk, this is it. The tone is inspirational and invigorating and Carter identifies several important points that educators need to tune into in order to be better teachers. Yet....
Yet there is something bothering me. For all the important emphasis on teacher and administrator improvement (a priori knowledge in recent educational debates), there is a heavy reliance on standards. Listen: No teacher is opposed to standards. It would be tantamount to saying I am against breathing. But just what those standards are and who sets them and who measures them--that is the debate.
Maybe it is the emphasis that Carter places on the importance of Direct Instruction as an instructional method that bothers me. DI has been widely advocated in educational certification programs as the standard modus operendi for classrooms instruction and it relies heavily on behavoralistic methods of learning: skill and drill, frequent assessments, highly scripted teacher stimuli and highly structure student response. Carter says that we have built too much into studying how children learn and forgotten to teach them. While this is catchy, I disagree: we must be cognizant of our students abilities when instructing them. It reminds me of one of my favorite teacher jokes. Did you hear about the teacher that went home and taught his dog how to whistle? ....No? She didn't learn, but he taught him.
But I still endorse this book. The 21 different schools are important for someone looking for other schools that have gone ahead with reform programs and that may be beneficial.
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Format: Paperback
Samuel Casey Carter strongly asserts in his introduction "America's public schools have utterly failed the poor" (p. 7). The book is meant to prove that there are no excuses for the under educating of poor children and assures the reader that the success stories therein are replicable anywhere. Carter lists seven common traits these schools share, then delineates five effective practices essential to their success, followed by an abstract of each school. Although Carter attempts to persuade, the reader may find herself taken aback and even offended at some of the quotes and concepts. For example, in the discussion of effective practices in regards to teachers, Carter says, "Above all else, high-performing schools use the hiring and firing of staff to communicate the ideals of their mission" (p. 22). Once past the initial distaste caused by such critical comments, there is much to be gained by close examination of this book. As a teacher in one of the highest-populated, highest-poverty level areas of the country, this reader's emotions, hopes, and dreams ran the entire gamut of possible reactions through the entire book. The author brings many positive ideas to light. It can be appreciated that the schools studied range in philosophical and political beliefs, yet share the commonality of a focused curriculum. While most of them use back-to-basics type curriculums, there are a few that are more developmentally based. Measurable goals, teamed with regular assessment, is another important way these schools find weaknesses that need addressed, whether being applied to students or teaching practices. Family involvement is another strength of these schools. Responsibility for learning lies with the students.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
There are many high-performing schools in high-poverty areas across the nation, and NO EXCUSES: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools by Samuel Casey Carter is an insightful look into their missions. Published by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank whose mission is to promote public policy, Carter's accumulation showcases public, private, religious and charter schools that serve poor students in both the inner city and rural areas from the East, West, North and South.

The book is structured into categories beginning with Effective Practices, which list some denominators that make for high-performing schools, such as Basic Skills, Dollars and Sense and Testing. The next section highlights twenty-one schools, their location, grades served, number of students, percentage of students considered low-income and median test percentiles. As you read about each school, you will find historical information of the schools' performances. The principals offer their mission statement and post comments as to what they feel are the necessities for children to learn. One common thread, regardless of the economic conditions a child comes from, all have the ability to learn and all can learn at a high level. Another common school of thought touted is poor performance is the result of poor teaching, plain and simple. Finally, the book ends with several appendices which list educational reform models, research summaries and titles for further reading.

While I find the book a good tool to utilize for teaching strategies, creative spending and ignoring the powers that be, I notice the limited writings on parental involvement and effective discipline.
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