A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All
On the twentieth anniversary of Teach for America, founder Wendy Kopp (with some help from Teaching As Leadership author Steven Farr) reflects on lessons from TFA teachers and alums about what it takes to lift achievement for low-income kids. Despite an over-abundance of TFA lingo and countless anecdotes that—while inspiring—are redundant, formulaic, and idealized, the book makes several compelling arguments. Most notably, TFA teachers and alums have shown that it’s possible to significantly lift performance of low-income students. Kopp goes on to offer candid perspectives on funding, school choice, class-size reduction, technology, and even “heroic teaching”—noting that not one of these education-reform bullets is silver. Unfortunately, she also leaves some important questions unanswered. Though the book articulates the need for more effective teachers, it doesn’t address the supply-side of the talent equation (i.e., how to attract better teachers to the profession other than through alternative certification). Sure, the book hails success stories from high-performing charter management groups (KIPP, YES Prep), whole cities (New Orleans, NYC, D.C.), and other innovative models (School of One, Rocketship Education), but for those not living in dynamic hubs of educational innovation and able to cultivate such talent-dependent reforms, the book’s lack of tangible policy recommendations is discouraging. Kopp calls for ways to increase the pace of change—including fostering political leadership and advocacy infrastructure—but skims over political and policy barriers affecting these initiatives. While there’s much to like about the book’s inspiring, can-do attitude, it doesn’t go far enough in providing the real-world advice that policymakers need.
A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t
in Providing an Excellent Education for All
Wendy Kopp with Steven Farr
New York, NY: Public Affairs Books, 2011
blog comments powered by Disqus