Published Online: February 5, 2008
Published in Print: February 6, 2008, as but this is a test

Book Review

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Learning’s Song

Bill Strickland was a 19-year-old college freshman when, in 1968, he founded the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, a youth arts center serving the derelict Pittsburgh neighborhood where he grew up. His inspiration was his high school pottery teacher, whose classes gave him a reason to attend school, and whose influence helped him graduate and enroll in college. Since then, the program has expanded to include career and technical education for disadvantaged adults, a jazz auditorium, a greenhouse, and an arts partnership with the Pittsburgh public schools. Of the students who participate, he writes, more than 90 percent graduate from high school, and 85 percent pursue postsecondary education.

In his book Make the Impossible Possible, Strickland, a 1996 MacArthur “genius grant” winner, recounts the center’s beginnings and growth into the Manchester Bidwell Corp. Interwoven throughout are descriptions of his approach to education and social entrepreneurship.

Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland with Vince Rause, published by Currency Books/Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc.


Believing in Change

“With each scathing review of American education comes a different attack on what schools currently do. Depending on the timing, the setting, the speaker, and the audience, the problem shifts. It could be poor test scores, inadequate preparation for college or the world of work, poor quality of teaching, or a general lack of public confidence in schools. Along with each outcry comes a demand for renewal, reform, restructuring, reinvention. Something must be done! All this implies change: moving schools from what they are to something better. But many individuals, including educators, do not believe something can be done. They are wrong.”

An associate professor of educational leadership at Fordham University and the director of the National School Change Awards, Lew Smith has spent the past several years examining ways severely underachieving schools have turned themselves into examples of high performance. For his book Schools That Change, he distills his findings into a two-part framework consisting of three “essential elements” and “catalytic variables.” The former—context, capacity, and conversations—must be considered for reform to occur, he explains, while the latter—internal dissonance, external forces, and leadership—can hasten its progress. Complementing the framework is an analysis of reform dynamics, an explanation of the change awards, and case studies of eight recipient schools. Smith also outlines potential pitfalls in the transformation process, stressing the need for ample time and comprehensive planning. His message offers hope that change, if done correctly, can be within the reach of any school.

Schools That Change: Evidence-Based Improvement and Effective Change Leadership by Lew Smith (Corwin Press,; 320 pp., $37.95 paperback).


The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of Their Lives by Neil Swidey (PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus,; 368 pp., $26 hardback).

The relationship between a white, suburban basketball coach and his black, urban high school team plays out over two seasons.

Living Through the Hoop: High School Basketball, Race, and the American Dream by Reuben A. Buford May (New York University Press,; 272 pp., $29.95 hardback).

High school basketball’s “dirty trick”: setting up poor African-American players staking their future on the sport for almost-certain failure.


The Death of the Comprehensive High School?: Historical, Contemporary, and Comparative Perspectives edited by Barry M. Franklin & Gary McCulloch (Palgrave Macmillan,; 224 pp., $74.95 hardback).

Essayists examine challenges to the model in Westernized societies around the globe.

Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy edited by Helen F. Ladd & Edward B. Fiske (Routledge, an imprint of Taylor & Francis,; 784 pp., $89.95 paperback).

Contributors include James W. Guthrie, Dan Goldhaber, Henry M. Levin, William F. Massy, Therese J. McGuire, Lawrence O. Picus, David N. Plank, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Kenneth K.Wong, and others.

The Price We Pay: Economic and Social Consequences of Inadequate Education edited by Clive R. Belfield & Henry M. Levin (Brookings Institution Press,; 273 pp., $26.95 paperback).

Scholars tally the cost in reduced personal and tax income and increased spending on health care, criminal justice, and public assistance.


Essential Concepts and School-Based Cases in Special Education Law by Charles J. Russo & Allan G. Osborne Jr. (Corwin Press,; 368 pp., $42.95 paperback).

A desk reference, including case excerpts.

The History of Special Education: A Struggle for Equality in American Public Schools by Robert L. Osgood (Praeger, an imprint of Greenwood,; 184 pp., $39.95 hardback).

The education of children with disabilities—in the home, public and private institutions, and schools—from the 1800s to the present.


Making the Most of the Web in Your Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Blogs, Podcasts, Wikis, Pages, and Sites by Timothy D. Green, Abbie Brown, & LeAnne Robinson (Corwin Press,; 168 pp., $27.95 paperback).

A resource for digital novices.

Podcasting at School by Kristin Fontichiaro (Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of Greenwood,; 184 pp., $30 paperback).

Using the emerging medium for educational purposes.

What Works in K-12 Online Learning edited by Cathy Cavanaugh & Robert Blomeyer (International Society for Technology in Education,; 180 pp., $37.95 paperback).

Effective course design, practices, and professional development for virtual school programs.

Vol. 27, Issue 22, Pages 26-27

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