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Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 15, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0307265715 ISBN-10: 0307265714 Edition: 1St Edition

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Donna Foote’s Relentless Pursuit

“Here is skilled, attentive documentary work become an instrument for the reader’s moral and social reflection — educational idealism, its achievements and its tribulations as they envelop the lives of schoolchildren, and their longtime teachers, their newly arrived ones: the effort to ‘teach for America’ become a social, psychological lesson all its own.”
- Robert Coles, author of Children of Crisis

“This important book is also a gripping read. From the first page, when Locke High School is locked down, Foote's compelling and inspiring characters draw us into the dizzying challenge of trying save the next generation and redeem the promise of America. Relentless Pursuit is not just for anyone who cares about poor kids and education. It's for anyone who cares about the future of the country."
- Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

"This book beautifully conveys the spirit, dedication and heroism of Teach For America and shows why it is such a valuable experience both for its corps members and their students."
- Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

“I will put this simply — this is one of the most profound books I have ever read. Donna Foote’s Relentless Pursuit will make you cringe. It will make you cry. It will make you cheer. Most important, it gives proof that education, under conditions that should make every American ashamed, can work with a beauty beyond all imagination. Just magnificent and inspiring.”
- Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City

“Foote’s account couldn’t be better-timed. Her inside view of TFA’s self-reinvention…demonstrates what relentless reflection on, and revision of, a mission and its methods can accomplish. The lessons on display are especially important for an era in which a ruthless focus on student outcomes risks overlooking a key ingredient of that enterprise: inputs for teachers, who need all the help they can get as they face an educational culture of new pressures and expectations, along with age-old challenges….Foote’s fine-grained account of Locke supplies the larger context and a corrective.”
- Sara Mosle, Slate

“Richly detailed…[Foote’s] book is the most interesting account of inner-city high school life in many years and only whets my appetite for more.”
- Jay Mathews, Washington Post Book World

“a vivid parallel account of the challenges these new teachers face and the challenges of building a movement for change within education….this could be the book that moves Teach For America firmly into the broader national consciousness.”
- Andrew J. Rotherham, New York Post

About the Author

Donna Foote is a freelance journalist and former Newsweek correspondent. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California, with her husband and fourteen-year-old son.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (April 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307265714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307265715
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Look for everyone reading this book on the beach this summer.
If you are a teacher or know a teacher, read this book, but I think anybody would enjoy this inside look at this remarkable school.
Gerard F. Zemek
There are 2 aspects of this book, both of which I found valuable.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Lars Poulsen on April 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Hero Teacher Story is an important American myth, known through such movies as "To Sir With Love", "Stand and Deliver", "The Hobarth Shakespearians" and "The Ron Howard Story". Like all good myths, they are used by different people to prop up different ideologies; often it is used to support a claim that poorly performing schools are not caused by a lack of money, just by a lack of expectations. Thus we should not be tempted fix the problems by "throwing money at the school districts which will just waste it like they have wasted all we have given them in the past".

A more reasonable interpretation may be that an excellent teacher with strong motivation can sometimes (often?) achieve what seems like miraculous results in a surprisingly short time with an almost superhuman work effort under even the worst of circumstances. But absent a systemic change, these results will probably only last for as long as the hero keeps up the superhuman effort. After he or she gives up, and leaves the field to "ordinary" successors, the disaster returns to the status quo ante. Thus, American urban schools have often turned into permanent disaster areas.

Thus, the must can promote both hope and hopelessness:
- on one hand, there is hope for a solution *IF* we can attract more of the very best teachers to address the problem
- on the other hand, this seems unlikely. The people that make extraordinary teachers tend to be all-around competent, intelligent, hardworking people with charismatic leadership abilities.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Martha L. Groves on April 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
With the opening disclaimer that author Donna Foote is a friend, I want to say I believe this is a well-written and important book about the difficult task educators face. The book has the page-turner momentum of a John Grisham novel and will open the eyes of those who have never ventured inside a stark urban high school. In addition to providing a fascinating history of Teach for America, Donna offers up a compelling recap of education and race relations in Los Angeles, told from within the walls of Locke High School, one of the most challenged schools in America. This is must reading for educators, parents and government officials.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Russell on April 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a young teacher in an inner city school district, I found this book informative, accurate, and extremely compelling. The book precisely portrays the conditions of inner city schools and the difficulties that the students, as well as the teachers, face. The author, Donna Foote, weaves together an incredible story of four inner city school teachers with factual and informative details about our educational system as a whole. A book I picked up and couldn't put down until the end, I would recommend this book to any reader!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bartik on June 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a good and valuable book. It has some limitations that prevent it from being a great book.

The book's strengths are its detailed depiction of the challenges and triumphs of 4 Teach for America teachers in a troubled high school in LA, Locke High School. The book gives a real feeling of the challenges these teachers face because of neighborhood gang problems, the poor academic preparation of many students, and issues with classroom discipline, educational bureaucracy, and the overall atmosphere of the school.

The book also gives a thumbnail depiction of the history and current operations of TFA. This includes a detailed view of how TFA selects "corps members", TFA's philosophy of "teaching as leadership", TFA's developing approach to assessment and curriculum, and TFA's expansion plans. There is also a detailed depiction of the work of the TFA program director who is overseeing the four TFA "CMs" at Locke.

This book would be useful in anyone wanting to understand some of the challenges in the very toughest urban high schools. The book would also be of interest in anyone wanting to understand TFA as an educational reform organization.

The limitation of the book is that it doesn't really explore the broader implications of TFA within American education. For example, the book mentions perceptions by the Locke high school principal, and some of the CMs, that much of the teaching at Locke High School is not good. However, none of this "bad teaching" is shown or explored. The focus is narrowly on the challenges and triumphs of the TFA teachers.

As another example, the book does not explore whether it is possible for TFA to really be the way to radically transform American education, and how.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I decided to read this book because I am currently in the process of applying to Teach for America and wanted to find out the truth about what it's like to teach in a challenging public school in America as a corps member. What I found out were those things and more. I didn't expect such a detailed account of what it takes to make TFA work as an organization nor did I expect to read stories from school administrators and especially not a corps member who quit. He believed that TFA "trumpeted the success of teachers making `significant gains,' and because the corps members are all psycho, and because they have always been told they can do anything they set their minds to, they chase this impossible goal, running themselves ragged to change the world."

I don't know what it's like to teach in a school like Locke, but I think Donna Foote tells it like it is. She reminded me how important the quality of a teacher is to a child's education and how dedicated corps members are to their cause no matter how overwhelming it might be. The four corps members depicted approached their teaching in different ways but each seemed to make a difference in their students' lives by the year's end. Reading this book made my heart sink and then rise again. Wendy Kopp's story alone is inspiring, but I felt like I actually knew the characters in this book while reading. I couldn't put it down.

This is a must read for anyone thinking about applying to Teach for America or anyone who has a negative view of teaching as a profession. For me, it reaffirmed my dedication to the cause of education reform and reassured me that TFA is a place I belong. For others it might do just the opposite.
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