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The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial Hardcover – January 19, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1565124882 ISBN-10: 156512488X

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (January 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156512488X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124882
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 v. O'Neill, 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Anyone who cares about education in this country today must read this book.
Sara
The stories make the book easy to follow and quite engaging, yet it is filled with solid research.
Meg
Before reading this compelling novel I was in the dark about the injustices of urban schooling.
Kara

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Meg on February 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. It describes the history of segregated schooling in Hartford CT. The book follows the legal case of Sheff vs. O'Neil, the history of social and government programs that led to residential segregation, and the compelling story of a class of inner city schoolchildren (and one bright, charming child in particular) and their dedicated teacher. The treatment of the issue is thorough and nuanced. The failure of government and the courts to meet the needs of these school children is heartbreaking. At the same time the book is hopeful, and demonstrates how integration can easily make a huge difference in the lives of poor children. The book was impressive in its assertion of integration as a moral as well as educational issue.

The stories make the book easy to follow and quite engaging, yet it is filled with solid research. I think this book should be required reading for policy makers and educators at all levels as well as anyone concerned with the future of public education and the type of society we will live in.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Holme on March 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Through a beautifully constructed narrative, Eaton poses one of the most important educational questions of our time: can we really "fix" urban schools without addressing the underlying historical and social roots of educational failure? A thoughtful book that draws on careful research, rigorous documentation, and graceful story telling, Eaton's book is a must read for anyone who cares about the future of children in urban schools.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Bell on April 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Susan Eaton has produced an exceptional, deeply researched book. It's by no means without an agenda, but it's no Swiftian polemic, something to which a wealth of footnotes and references will attest.

Eaton grabs you by the wrist, pulling you through the torturous folds of the Sheff v O'Neill court case. She forces the ugly machinations of a typical large-city public school system into the fore, giving a vivid account of the harsh inequity of Connecticut schools.

Eaton makes a compelling argument against district boundaries, with their rigid, segregating forces. She tells of an entrenched system of De Facto segregation, arisen over the past fifty years, here to stay--unless, of course, the slumbering giants (our public schools) wake up to their own mistakes. They did in 1954, when Brown forced them. Perhaps they will again.

Every school district board member should keep this book on their desk.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sara on May 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Can separate ever be equal? Over and over again, we seem to be coming back to the same question our country has struggled with for decades. Countless court cases later, Susan Eaton describe in heart breaking detail, the inequities in the school lives of the children in room E4- a room found in every urban area in this country today.

Public education continues to fail miserably. Eaton's ability to weave the details of the court ruling and efforts by civil rights attorneys with the every day life in the classroom is stunning. Anyone who cares about education in this country today must read this book. It provides a compelling roadmap of where we've been and where we are headed if something doesn't change.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Johnson on July 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book goes beyond simply explaining what the challenges in urban education are -- it shows where they came from. With a detailed history of the Supreme and Federal Court decisions since Brown v. Board of Education, Eaton illustrates how segregated and isolated schooling has been perpetuated and gotten worse in the last 50 years. Her analysis does it in two ways: first, by focusing closely on a high achieving Hartford class of students in their third and fourth grade years (the Micro view) and by showing how the Macro problems -- the legal history -- have enabled the complete ignoring and disempowerment of American cities.

In so doing, Eaton tells the story of Sheff v. O'Neill -- a landmark Connecticut court decision on the vastly segregated and unequal state of schooling in the Hartford area. She explains how the legal team put the case together, the data they collected, their Constitutional interpretations, and their battles to win....

If you are from Connecticut, interested in schooling or in school law, this book is perfect for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michelle on December 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Children in Room E4 is an excellent novel depicting the issues of urban education in Hartford, Connecticut. The story follows the legal proceedings of the Sheff vs. O'Neill case, which discusses the segregation of urban schools that leads to unequal education opportunity. Along with the court case, Eaton narrates the inner workings of one elementary school classroom directly affected by segregation, which includes the story of a gifted Hispanic boy named Jeremy, his classmates, and their inspiring teacher Mrs. Luddy.

The Children in Room E4 awakened me to the harsh and current realities of segregation in urban schools (even in Hartford!). My conception that segregation was an issue of the past has been completely shattered. Eaton explains in detail how segregation brings about unequal education through her touching description of "the children in Room E4". Urban, minority students like Jeremy are essentially trapped within their poor neighborhood schools and don't receive the stimulating classroom environment that their white, suburban counterparts do. From unsafe neighborhoods and poverty, to relentless standardized-test drilling, to inexperience with the world outside of their community, these children face many barriers in education. And what's worse, the slow, drawn-out legal processes that attempt to correct segregation often end up bearing no fruit for these children. Eaton does an excellent job of evoking frustration through her description of the court process. Especially as I read the heartrending story of gifted Jeremy and his full-of-potential classmates, I couldn't help but to feel outrage that due to segregation, the U.S. is not providing quality education for these children. Furthermore, their talented teacher Mrs.
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