From Publishers Weekly
The separate but equal doctrine may have been repudiated by the Supreme Court, but as Eaton cogently demonstrates in this stirring and sobering account of the school system in inner-city Hartford, Conn., major educational inequality still exists in many inner-city schools. Eaton chronicles the progress of Sheff
, a case brought against the state in 1989, charging that school districts in Hartford and its environs were rigidly drawn to ensure segregation of poor and minority students. By encapsulating these students in racially isolated, underfunded schools, the state has created a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty and substandard academic achievement. A graceful and fluent writer, Eaton reviews the circumstances in which local and state politics allowed this situation to arise and worsen over time. She follows the inception and progress of the court case, creating suspense about its outcome. (Though the case was decided in favor of the plaintiffs, appeals are still pending after 18 years, since the state has failed to meet its mandated goals.) As long as there is racial isolation, Eaton convincingly demonstrates, schools will not improve and students will be denied the chance to learn at the same rate as their suburban neighbors, thereby impeding their chances to improve their lives and their futures. By bringing this situation to light, she has significantly articulated the problems that challenge politicians, school boards and concerned citizens. (Jan. 19)
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Eaton, a former journalist who followed an 18-year-long lawsuit involving the school district of Hartford, Connecticut, brings to life all of the complex social issues in the separate-but-equal debate that has roiled the nation since Brown
v. Board of Education.
Eaton focuses on a dedicated teacher and the students in Room E4 of the Simpson-Waverly Elementary School, all struggling to overcome the inequities that leave the children without adequate supplies, courses, and services to get a decent education in a decaying town, one of the nation's poorest, surrounded by wealthy suburbs. The teacher, Ms. Luddy, pushes her students, from the brightest to the most challenged, to meet the marks set for student achievement under No Child Left Behind, knowing that the school has little of the resources necessary to help the children achieve. As Eaton details the day-to-day struggle in the classroom, she chronicles the courtroom battle waged by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union to equalize the balance between the poor black and Puerto Rican students in the city and the more privileged students in the suburbs. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved