An upbeat look at a dozen schools where innovative programs are boosting academic performance and helping troubled students at the same time. Martz, a contributing editor to Newsweek, gives no quarter to the US educational system: ``Our schools are fortresses not of violence and despair, but of mediocrity.'' But his book is about hope, not blame. The experiments in these schools from Long Island to California, from high school to preschool, are templates for parents and teachers everywhere. Some, like the Fannie Mae/Woodson High School partnership in Washington, D.C.--which offers college scholarships and corporate mentors to struggling teenagers--cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Others, like a student-tutoring- student program in Texas, cost about $300 per child. What all of the programs have in common is one committed person with an idea, the eventual support of enlightened administrators and concerned parents, and a focus on the children. But most important, according to Martz, is the ``Hawthorne effect,'' by which achievement is enhanced simply because a select group of students becomes a focus of concern. Each chapter concludes with a list of guidelines that could help other schools launch their own Hawthorne-effect programs. Some of the programs discussed here have been mentioned in other, recent books on American schools (e.g., George H. Wood's Schools That Work, p. 245); the duplication reflects not on Martz's research but on the dearth of such efforts. A book full of human interest, designed to inspire more teachers and parents to take one small step for the children that could lead to a giant step for American schools.