A scathing look at the New York City Public School system from a Newsday reporter who spent the 1988-89 school year as a junior high school math teacher. Ms. Sacher raises numerous questions in this probing, personal -- sometimes farcical -- account. Why teach exponents to eighth grade youngsters who can barely add? Why haven't eight graders who can hardly read and write been referred to Special Education? Why are indifferent, insensitive teachers allowed to remain in the classroom? Why have students on a third grade level been receiving satisfactory or better report cards? None of these questions are answered to her, or our, satisfaction. Ms. Sacher is reluctant to place the onus entirely on the bureaucratic system or on callous teachers. The problems run far deeper, she offers, when children come to school hungry and lacking basic social skills. The most moving sections of this excellent account are Ms. Sacher's visits to her students' homes. The origin of so many of the problems is rooted here. Ms. Sacher's year was remarkable not only for what she was able to observe and record, but also for what she could accomplish in the classroom. She was determined to teach her students and win over even the most troubled and hostile ones. She succeeded on both accounts. In the tradition of Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase and Jonathan Kozol's Death at an Early Age, this first-hand narrative is no small victory.