MIRACLE IN EAST HARLEM

THE FIGHT FOR CHOICE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

The story of N.Y.C.'s famous District 4 alternative schools and how they changed the lives of children growing up in one of the city's most challenging neighborhoods. In the recent plethora of books about improving our educational system, District 4 is inevitably one of the shining examples of what can be done. And District 4 is inevitably linked with Deborah Meier, winner of a MacArthur ``genius grant'' for her innovations in education. As this study makes clear, Meier was only one of dozens of District 4 teachers, principals, and administrators who in 1973 began to build a series of small, tightly knit schools, each with a focused curriculum, that engaged the parents and the community and that allowed families to choose the schools where their children could learn most effectively. By 1983, there were 14 alternative schools in District 4, and by the end of this school year, there will be 29. More important, in ten years, District 4 went from being the worst school district in N.Y.C. (32nd out of 32) to number 15. Reading scores soared, violence and absenteeism dropped, and students began to be accepted in record numbers to elite high schools and prestigious colleges. Fliegel (who was District 4's director of alternative schools and then deputy superintendent) and MacGuire (Senior Fellow/Manhattan Institute) recount how the alliance of visionary administrators, principals, and teachers practiced ``creative noncompliance'' with the teachers' union and a bureaucratic board of education to make choice a reality. Fiscal and other scandals—recounted relatively unsparingly here—plagued the program, and an unsympathetic superintendent slowed its momentum, but District 4's brave and innovative example is finally spreading to other districts in New York and elsewhere. Factual and editing errors—in student biographies, for example (including that of Kirkus's own Mara Frank, whose college major, job title, and very name were gotten wrong)—mar what's otherwise a satisfying behind-the-scenes look at an experiment that has given a generation of hard-pressed youngsters opportunity and hope.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8129-2039-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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