Urgent Education Catastrophe Overflowing with Culprits and Caveats
Conor Williams' take on The Prize:
If you read Russakoff's account and find your beliefs vindicated, you're not trying hard enough
Those good intentions matter: "The Prize" is chock-full of culprits who bear some responsibility for converting promise into paralysis, but there are essentially no villains. And while there are some bursts of heroism amidst many, many failures, neither are therewinners. The reformers' clumsy efforts at "transformational change" tarnishes them and their ideas — and leaves the city's education politics poisoned. Their opponents blunt many of the efforts to change the school system, but their political venom leaves Newark's deplorable educational status quo largely in place.
It's tempting to see Newark as conclusive proof that education reform is fatally flawed, or that its opponents are somehow vindicated by the limited changes that Zuckerberg's $100 million produces. But "The Prize" is much more sophisticated than that lazy, ideologically-comfortable, read.
No. This is a story where more or less everyone in Newark loses. There is no easy solution to the city's deep and persistent troubles. So in addition to the many culprits, "The Prize" is also — appropriately — packed with caveats: Sure, Newark's school district is a dysfunctional embarrassment, but changing it dramatically ignites huge pushback. But slow progress is leaving kids stuck. But fast progress bothers lots of community stakeholders. Butcommunity stakeholders want schools to get better quickly. But they don't like those leading the effort. And so on.
Review: In Dale Russakoff's "The Prize," an Urgent Education Catastrophe Overflowing with Culprits and Caveats
August 24, 2015