Education Book Review

New in Print

By Anne E. Das — August 12, 2008 4 min read

Urban Education

Writing in the spirit that “it takes a village to educate a child,” Price, a former president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, urges educators to look beyond schoolhouse walls for solutions to achievement gaps and high dropout rates. Parent involvement is key, he says, but schools should also ally themselves with community organizations to promote a broader culture focused on academic success. Through examples of such partnerships, he illustrates ways that co-sponsored celebrations and incentives have been used to motivate students, particularly those from disadvantaged groups. He also addresses their practicalities, such as planning, funding, and manpower, and offers guidance on getting the media to cover these events. Though the models he cites are largely from cities, Price believes they can be replicated elsewhere. Educators seeking a blueprint may find the book a valuable resource.

Essays, fiction, and poetry on the urban education experience.

Bridging the divide between white novice teachers and their minority students.

Curriculum

In a 2005 Associated Press-America Online News poll of 1,000 adults, 37 percent of respondents reported that math was the subject they hated most in school—twice as many as for any other subject. Yet math was also the most liked, with 23 percent of those polled saying it had been their favorite class. Boaler, a professor of mathematics education, believes this love-hate response can be attributed to different methods of teaching. When students are allowed to solve problems collaboratively and apply math to real-world situations, she writes, their understanding and enthusiasm outshine that of their peers drilled only in procedures. Accordingly, she suggests strategies for bringing “authentic” math into the classroom, along with ways to make testing a learning experience. Ability grouping and gender disparities also are considered, both for their impact on achievement and for their influence on students’ emotions toward math. Boaler reminds readers that while algorithms may be forgotten soon after graduation, turning a child’s feelings for a subject from loathing to loving can give a lifetime of benefit.

An indictment of abstinence-only curricula.

Also of Note

Recommends that Western schools teach political activity tempered with tolerance and critical thinking.

A family with six home-schooled children on making it work from preschool to college.

“Talking to the Public 101” for school and district leaders.

Technology

45distracted

According to Maggie Jackson, the author of Distracted and a journalist who writes on work-life balance, modern society suffers from a collective case of attention deficit disorder. The electronic tools that bring us a wealth of information at ever-increasing speeds have, by their unceasing interruptions, shattered our concentration to a degree that we rarely think meaningfully on what we learn. The problem is so pronounced, she warns, that despite such advances, we may be entering a new era of cultural regression. Jackson does not advocate renouncing technology, but instead recommends training, beginning in childhood, in “attention skills” such as self-control, focus, and perception. Benefiting teachers may well agree with her contention that “perhaps attention is the true missing key to better learning.” The following is an excerpt from the book:

School Reform

When “achievement gaps” show up in discussions of American education, usually they refer to differences in learning between white, well-off students and their poor and minority peers. Wagner, a co-director of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard University’s graduate school of education, would like to add a new term to the lexicon: the “global achievement gap.” He defines it as the separation between what we’re currently teaching—even in our best schools—and what students will need to know and be able to do to succeed in the globalized knowledge economy. The latter instruction he organizes into seven “survival skills” for thinking and communication, such as the ability to problem-solve and to lead a team. Much of the book focuses on these competencies, exploring ways they can be developed and assessed, how they differ from what students currently learn, and how to train educators to teach them. In addition, Wagner examines today’s media-savvy, technology-driven students—the employees of tomorrow—and outlines methods for motivating them to be good learners, workers, and citizens in the 21st century. If our children are to thrive in a rapidly changing world, he argues, it’s time we ask the important questions about their preparation and needs.

A 20-year teaching veteran offers his prescription.

A management scientist and the founder of an alternative school envision education for the postindustrial era.

A version of this article appeared in the August 13, 2008 edition of Education Week