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The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve Hardcover – August 16, 2011
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Award-winning education journalist Peg Tyre mines up-to-the-minute research to equip parents with the tools and knowledge necessary to get their children the best education possible
We all know that the quality of education served up to our children in U.S. schools ranges from outstanding to shockingly inadequate. How can parents tell the difference? And how do they make sure their kids get what's best? Even the most involved and informed parents can feel overwhelmed and confused when making important decisions about their child's education. And the scary truth is that evaluating a school based on test scores and college admissions data is like selecting a car based on the color of its paint. Synthesizing cutting-edge research and firsthand reporting, Peg Tyre offers parents far smarter and more sophisticated ways to assess a classroom and decide if the school and the teacher have the right stuff. Passionate and persuasive, The Good School empowers parents to make sense of headlines; constructively engage teachers, administrators, and school boards; and figure out the best option for their child—be that a local public school, a magnet program, a charter school, homeschooling, parochial, or private.
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After reading this book, I feel like I have several new lenses through which to evaluate my children's teachers. Right now, I'm trying to work up the courage to ask them where they all did their undergraduate work. I'm not sure I'm going to like the answers....
As Tyre tells it, early childhood education is a recent phenomenon. In the 1830s, an influential education warned that the "mental excitement" would over-stimulate children. In l930, only .09 per cent of young children attended nursery school. As late as the 1950s, only 16 per cent left their homes for school experiences.
It's now generally agreed that, as Tyre writes, "the central building blocks of literacy must be laid down before kindergarten." Interestingly, that means talking to kids --- and having kids talk back. A four-year-old from a family of involved, professional parents has heard 45 million words. A working class kid: 26 million words. A welfare kid: 13 million. (Thanks to handheld devices, this is changing. And not for the better. So if you're texting away while your kid tries to tell you something certain to bore you --- put the thing down!!!)
What's more important --- a good teacher or a small class? Are audiobooks ok? Why are Asian kids such high-achievers? (Answer: It's not because they're smarter.) How much time in a school day is actually devoted to learning? Does recess matter? Why is education so much better in South Korea and Finland? "The Good School" will tell all.
Peg Tyre is a mother. (Her last book, The Trouble With Boys, is a smart blend of research and hard-won personal knowledge.) She's not a professional educator. She's as much of a resource as a great librarian or that teacher you'll never forget. Use her.
There's lots of good writing out there about what works in education, but what's unique about this book is the combination of key research and parent anecdotes in an easy-to-use, practical guide you can read in just a few hours.
As Mrs. Tyre writes, choosing a school is likely one of the most important decisions you'll ever make for your child. You owe it to yourself to be an educated consumer: it's the only way you'll be able to ask the questions, and discern the difference between your school choices, before your child ends up at a school that doesn't serve her well.
Once you read this book, do read the school's web site, thoroughly. Ask the tough questions Mrs. Tyre discusses. Meet the teachers, and engage them in a conversation about their background and the subjects they teach. Look at textbooks and other teaching materials. Request an extended classroom observation. Be critical, very critical: if you can't understand how the school works after doing this research, if the people you talk to don't seem passionate and eager to work with you, if the answers you receive are not compelling (or if you aren't invited to see inside the classroom or speak with teachers), that's a red flag you should take seriously!
As someone at a private school who is in charge of educating parents about the difference between our school and other options, I love it when parents are educated and probe deeply before committing to our school. As Mrs. Tyre writes, "Administrators and teachers at good schools want you to ask questions when you go on an Open House tour. They want you to have a sophisticated idea of what you should look for when you visit a classroom."
I will recommend this book to our staff and potential parents, to help them make better, more informed school choices, and to educate themselves on one of the most important decisions they'll ever make.
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