Award-winning journalist Tyre (Journalism/Columbia Univ.; The Trouble With Boys, 2009, etc.) adds new perspective to the depressing state of American education with real-world lessons for parents.
Many parents assume that affluent schools and small class size provide the best education for children. This is not necessarily true, writes the author. Interspersed with dreary anecdotes and myth-busting studies, the author’s latest focuses on early education (preschool through junior high) to help parents make good school choices. Dismal facts include the National Center for Education Statistics’ finding that “about a third of children in our public schools fail to become proficient readers.” Thankfully, Tyre offers solutions. With a splash of history, the author discusses pedagogies, as well as what to look for in a good preschool teacher (highly verbal teachers are most effective). In addition, parents should not be afraid to ask about a teacher’s degree or a school’s number of first-year instructors. Tyre outlines many red flags, such as the derogatory “widget” mentality—i.e. administrators who view teachers as interchangeable cogs with identical skill sets. She cautions against using standardized test scores as accurate indicators of school performance. Scores broken down by subgroups and long-term trends offer more information. Not everyone has the luxury of choice, but the author provides respectful ways for approaching—or changing—the system. She also emphasizes working with children at home for a greater educational experience.
This is not an indictment of teachers, but rather an eye-opening tool for parental involvement.