ARE YOU IN A PICKLE?

LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY: STUDENTS' PERFORMANCE AND ACHIEVEMENT GAPS

A timely, insightful assessment of American education, with an emphasis on eliminating the “achievement gap.”

With all the attention paid to economic malaise, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the American education system is also in crisis (some of it caused by underfunded school systems). Pickles, a lifelong professional educator who holds a doctorate in reading and education administration, thinks most school system administrators find themselves “in a pickle,” and so she lays out a plan “for achieving at high levels and eliminating the gap among subgroups and across socioeconomic lines.” Pickles admits her work is an outgrowth of her dissertation about reading achievement, which she wrote two decades ago, but she’s careful to note that she has broadened her scope to focus on systemic change. First, the author offers a historical overview to put current challenges in perspective and then addresses three key areas—“Creating Schools and Districts for Excellence” (specific strategies and tactics for improving students’ performance and closing achievement gaps), “Educational Leadership and Professional Relationships” (a discussion of leadership principles applicable to teachers and school administrators) and “Building External Partnerships” (how and why partnerships are useful in meeting schools’ challenges). In the book’s final section, Pickles presents “A Future Platform for Education,” in which she offers numerous specific suggestions, keyed to instructional leadership, professional relationships and families, partners and the greater community. There is no shortage of ideas for improvement, but unlike some works that may reach for lofty, unachievable goals, Pickles grounds her suggestions in research and the practicality of her considerable experience as a classroom teacher, principal and superintendent of schools. Pickles correctly focuses the majority of her attention on low-performing schools, suggesting that “if we can fix these schools, then we can fix all schools.” This book will undoubtedly find its largest audience among forward-thinking school administrators who continue to believe that they have the ability to measurably impact the quality of education. Pickles’ message may be most appropriate for administrators, but teachers, school boards and concerned parents will also benefit from reading this book as it will remind them that the welfare of students should always be the first priority in educational reform.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 142

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2011

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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