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January 21, 2004 6 min read
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No Child Left Behind? The Politics and
Practice of School Accountability

ed. by Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West (Brookings Institution Press, 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036; 340 pp., $52.95 hardback, $22.95 paperback).

This first scholarly evaluation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 examines the law’s origins, the political and social forces that have shaped it, some possible effects of its implementation, and the legislation’s impact on American education. Contributors to the volume include Anthony S. Bryk, Frederick M. Hess, Jennifer Hochschild, Tom Loveless, Terry M. Moe, and Douglas O. Staiger.

ed. by Martin Carnoy, Richard Elmore, and Leslie Santee Siskin (

Three respected education scholars explore assessment-based accountability reforms at the high school level, looking at school experiences and high-stakes-testing data in four states: Texas, New York, Vermont, and Kentucky. Chapters examine differences in the philosophies of various schools, consider questions of leadership and capacity, and contemplate the consequences for school subject matter. The book’s conclusion is that “without corresponding internal structures of coherence and accountability, externally imposed educational reforms make little or no difference in the quality of education, or in improving high school graduation rates.”

Adequacy & Equity

Final Test: The Battle for
Adequacy in America’s Schools

by Peter Schrag (The New Press, 38 Greene St., 4th Floor, New York, NY, 10013; 308 pp., $25.95 hardback).

Addresses the longtime achievement gap in America’s schools between black and Hispanic students and their Asian and white counterparts and describes a new strategy being developed to combat it. The strategy is one in which “public policies are based on calculations of ‘adequacy'—what it actually takes in teachers, books, facilities, and other resources to educate each child.” This approach calls for a reciprocal arrangement in which students are required to pass tests for promotion and graduation and states are required to provide sufficient resources and materials for learning.

Charter Schools

Taking Account of Charter Schools:
What Happened and What’s Next?

ed. by Katrina E. Bulkley and Priscilla Wohlstetter (Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027; 223 pp., $34.95 paperback).

Education researchers versed in charter school issues examine these schools’ impact on teachers, students, educational practices, and school governance. Some of the issues addressed include: the characteristics and quality of charter school teachers, the extent to which such schools’ enhanced autonomy and accountability have changed educational practices, the use of for- profit educational management organizations as charters’ service providers, how charter schools meet federal requirements (particularly for special education), and charters’ impact on student achievement.

Citizenship & Democracy

Cultivating Democracy: Civic Environments
And Political Socialization in America

by James G. Gimpel, J. Celeste Lay, and Jason E. Schuknecht (Brookings Institution Press, 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036; 278 pp., $32.95 hardback).

Based on extensive interviews with adolescents from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, this study shows how political and civic environments shape American youths. The authors examine how different political environments affect civic engagement and the attitudes of young people toward government and politics. They conclude that children reared in “one-party environments characterized by low-turnout elections are at a serious disadvantage when compared with those growing up in more politically heterogeneous locations with strong turnout.” The book recommends ways to improve the political education of young people.

by David Tyack (

In his latest volume on the history of American schooling, the distinguished Stanford University professor emeritus examines the problem of how to “create and sustain a shared curriculum, structure, and educational philosophy” in a multicultural society. He concludes that arguments about schools’ civic purposes are necessary to a democracy.


Judging School Discipline:
The Crisis of Moral Authority

by Richard Arum (Harvard University Press, 79 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138; 336 pp., $39.95 hardback).

A New York University professor of sociology and education argues that the moral authority of teachers and principals has been waning for four decades. He investigates the history of this trend, examining 1,200 individual cases in which a school’s right to control students was contested, and explores the phenomenon’s negative consequences for American education. Additional analysis is included on court leanings, disciplinary practices, and student outcomes. The author’s chief argument is that a fear of lawsuits keeps teachers and administrators from managing discipline in ways that the public would support.


Underage & Overweight: America’s
Childhood Obesity Crisis—
What Every Family Needs to Know

by Frances M. Berg (Hatherleigh Press, 5-22 46th Ave., Suite 200, Long Island City, NY 11101; 464 pp., $24.95 hardback).

An expert on childhood obesity discusses its causes and consequences and explains how to cope with and possibly cure it. Included is her seven-point plan that focuses on changing the way families think about food and physical activity. She offers techniques to get children to be more active and ways to normalize children’s eating habits, as well as explaining doctors’ roles and showing how parents can work with the school system and their child’s teacher.


Battling Corruption in America’s Public Schools
by Lydia G. Segal (Northeastern University Press, 360 Huntington Ave., 416CP, Boston, MA 02115; 256 pp., $32.50 hardback).

Based on interviews and investigative research in the United States’ three largest school districts—New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago—this cautionary tale for school management argues that systemic waste, corruption, and fraud are weakening public schools. But it offers a plan for reclaiming their promise. Seeing the problem as not one of “bad people,” but of a “bad system that focuses on process at the expense of results,” the author demonstrates how regulations designed to curb waste and fraud actually provide what she calls “perverse incentives.” Her plan for reform, based on the initiatives of successful districts, is detailed in the book.


The Almanac of American Education, 2004
ed. by Deirdre A. Gaquin and Katherine A. Debrandt (Bernan Press, 4611-F Assembly Drive, Lanham, MD 20706; 353 pp., $49 paperback).

This guidebook helps users understand and compare the quality of education at the national, state, and county levels nationwide. It contains historical and current data, analysis, and graphs compiled from official U.S. government and reliable private sources. The volume is divided into four parts: national school enrollment and educational attainment statistics; state education statistics; county education statistics; and a guide to education resources on the Internet. The text is designed for use by public libraries, students, educators, administrators, academics, education schools, government departments of education, and educational trade associations and nonprofit organizations.

Urban Schools

City Schools and the American Dream:
Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education

by Pedro Noguera (Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027; 189 pp., $19.95 paperback).

Argues that higher standards and high-stakes tests alone will not improve low-performing urban schools or their students’ academic achievement. The author, a professor at Harvard University’s graduate school of education, uses research from the California cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond to show that achievement is greatly influenced by such social forces as demographic change, poverty, drug trafficking, violence, and social inequity.

ed. by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (

Issues in urban inclusive education are explored in nine case studies. Each chapter examines how a city addressed a crucial element of inclusion, such as early literacy instruction, peer relationships, access to the general curriculum, and curriculum adaptations.

—A.E. Conrad

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2004 edition of Education Week


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