- The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools
by William G. Howell and Paul E. Peterson (Brookings Institution Press, 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036; 320 pp., $28.95 hardcover).
Presents the results of what has been called the most comprehensive study on vouchers conducted to date: a multiyear evaluation of the effects on student achievement of voucher programs in New York City, Washington, and Dayton. Data from randomized field trials in those cities are augmented in the book by findings from a voucher initiative in the Edgewood district of San Antonio and a randomized-field-trial evaluation of a program that offered vouchers to 40,000 low-income families nationwide. While the authors say that vouchers are not an educational panacea, they report signs that vouchers may help close the achievement gap found nationwide between African-American and white students. Portions of the authors’ work were presented to the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments in the Cleveland voucher case.
- Questions You Should Ask About Charter Schools and Vouchers
by Seymour B. Sarason (Heinemann, 361 Hanover St., Portsmouth, NH 03801; 123 pp., $15 paperback).
Examines the problems charter schools and voucher policies may face in implementation—and the general lack of information most educators have about such issues. Written by an esteemed voice in the field, Yale University Professor Emeritus of Psychology Seymour B. Sarason, the founder of the Yale Psycho-Educational Clinic, this slim volume neither endorses nor opposes today’s hottest school choice vehicles, yet points to the need for more program scrutiny and practical knowledge before judging the validity of claimed outcomes. The book addresses what the author considers to be the predictable problems of creating these new educational settings.
- The Charter School Landscape
ed. by Sandra Vergari (University of Pittsburgh Press, Eureka Building, Fifth Fl., 3400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15260; 334 pp., $36 hardcover).
A collection of essays on key issues affecting charter schools across a broad range of jurisdictions, 10 years into the movement for these publicly financed but largely independent schools. Edited by the co-founder and co-director of the American Educational Research Association’s School Choice Special Interest Group, the book looks at charter systems in 11 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Alberta. Each chapter focuses on one of those locales, examining issues of law, policy implementation, and accountability, as well as controversies, trends, and future prospects.
- Children as Pawns: The Politics of Educational Reform
by Timothy A. Hacsi (Harvard University Press, 79 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138; 261 pp., $39.95 hardcover).
An exploration of past educational policies that stresses research, rather than political rhetoric. The author, a Harvard University research associate, takes on five contentious areas in debates over late-20th-century school reform—Head Start, bilingual education, small class size, social promotion, and school funding—and gauges, through careful analysis of the best available evidence, their impact on school effectiveness. His conclusions may surprise and enlighten many readers.
- Closing the Achievement Gap: No Excuses
by Patricia Davenport and Gerald Anderson (American Productivity & Quality Center, 123 North Post Oak Lane, Third Fl., Houston, TX 77024; 125 pp., $20 paperback).
Chronicles the steps taken by Texas’ Brazosport Independent School District to close what had become a widening gap separating its high- performing and low-performing students. The results achieved after establishing a continuous-improvement plan have gained the district nationwide recognition and made it a model for those wishing to ensure consistently high achievement among diverse student populations.
- Fix Schools First: Blueprint for Achieving Learning Standards
by Jack E. Bowsher (Aspen Publishers Inc., 7201 McKinney Circle, Frederick, MD 21704; 355 pp., $39 paperback).
Outlines a method for turning schools around that is based on sound management principles. The author, a former director of education for IBM, uses his business and education backgrounds to show how educators can apply the five strategies he says are critical to success: starting from a realistic, positive premise; fostering better job satisfaction for teachers; creating a new vision based on teamwork; rewarding teachers who support change; and redefining teaching and learning.
Social and Psychological
- What Kids Need: Today’s Best Ideas for Nurturing, Teaching, and Protecting Young Children
by Rima Shore (Beacon Press, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108; 280 pp., $25 hardcover).
Brings together 10 years of research compiled by the Carnegie Corporation of New York supporting the notion that greater emphasis on child well-being and education must be integral to the nation’s political agenda. The book examines factors leading to healthy child development, including good prenatal care, Head Start, and public health insurance for children from low-income families, and makes the case for creating universal, voluntary prekindergarten. The author, who has spent 20 years writing about children’s development and learning, applies the foundation’s research to policy recommendations for children in the areas of health, employment, K-12 education, welfare, housing, and justice. The book offers practical advice for parents, and explains what policymakers can do to improve the lives of children.
- A Mind at a Time
by Mel Levine, M.D. (Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; 352 pp., $26 hardcover).
A pediatrician draws on new research into brain function to reveal how each child learns in a unique way based on his or her neurodevelopmental system. Detailing eight primary systems—attention control, memory, language, spatial ordering, sequential ordering, motor, higher thinking, and social thinking systems—the author provides a road map of the mind that allows detection of the earliest signs of breakdown in learning. The book presents tools and techniques that can aid children in overcoming academic obstacles and encourages educators and parents to support independent and creative thinking.
A version of this article appeared in the August 07, 2002 edition of Education Week