A work offers a critical evaluation of the shortcomings of public schools in the United States.
In this education policy book, Kugushev (Immigrants in Their Own Voice, 2012, etc.) compares attributes of successful and unsuccessful high schools around the country in an effort to identify the factors that contribute to college and career readiness and to suggest winning strategies. The author sees a lack of parental involvement and a culture that places a low value on intellectual development as the key factors limiting student achievement (“At a mass level, our culture is rooted in earlier times and acquiesces to educational mediocrity without giving it much thought”). The volume divides schools into “nimble mouses” and “ponderous elephants,” using the animal metaphors to highlight common characteristics. After capsule descriptions of several dozen schools in each category, Kugushev moves to solutions, offering proposals for improved teacher training, increased professionalization, expanded parental outreach, and reallocation of funding. Recommendations include a de-emphasis on or elimination of athletic programs, training parents to be effective partners in their children’s education, and expanding and enhancing guidance counseling. The book’s analysis of school qualities is somewhat limited: Kugushev uses Advanced Placement tests as a proxy for college readiness, with no mention of actual college entrance rates, and conclusions drawn from school websites about parental involvement and local culture stretch credibility (“McClymonds’s meaningless website signals the utter hopelessness of some inner-city environments). In addition, broader issues are ignored (“absence of parental engagement” is blamed for low performance in Flint, Michigan, while the city’s ongoing water crisis makes no appearance). The author includes schools’ racial statistics “with great reluctance,” and the hesitancy shows in the lack of engagement with the history of discrimination in public education and in clumsy language (“Why, in a mainstream white community, do only one-third take readiness tests?”; “Uninvolved, low-income black parents presumably define truly poor schools”). There is also no discussion of the impact of special education, with its substantial effect on both policy and funding.
A heartfelt and ambitious look at education reform hampered by methodology limitations.