07 October 2011

What Is A Perfect School Anyway?

Despite the fact that I rail about my kid's school a bunch, I should shut up. Really. We have it lucky. Yes, we chose the town we live in because it has a good school system (and chose the house because I can walk to the train station). Yes, we put our child in a daycare program that morphed into a Montessori preschool. Yes, we read to her every single night. I didn't really need to read Peg Tyre's The Good School; I'm already there.

But I did read it, and I liked it a lot - so much so that I reached out to Peg's publicist and asked for a copy to give away. Because I know there are a lot of troubled schools and dysfunctional school systems out there, and this book can help you find a way to make a difference and/or choose the right school for your kid.

Peg isn't preachy, she's not mired in rubrics and jargon. In a conversational and methodical way, she walks through many issues surrounding pre-K through high school education. She skewers standardized testing in a way that non-educators will understand. She advocates for recess, because it helps kids think better. She talks about class sizes, the importance of scientifically based reading instruction, and why good teachers matter. The book is laced with interviews with parents and educators, anecdotes about good and bad school situations, and plenty of hard evidence about best practices. At the end of most of the chapters is a list of "take aways" - bullet points summarizing the main ideas in the chapter. And the last section is a synopsis - what makes a good school and why there are no perfect schools.

If you're interested in reading it, I have that aforementioned copy to give away. Leave me a comment by day's end on Tuesday 10/11 and tell me how you think it could help you. I'll pick a name out of something hat-like and you'll get a copy anon. Oh, and make sure your email address is enabled in your profile OR in the comment.



Disclosure: Nope, no one paid me to tell you any of this. I did get a free copy of the book for my own use, because I offhandly mentioned to the publicist that I was reading a copy from the public library. By sending me a copy, he got the library copy back into circulation - that's a good thing, right? Should I also tell you that my husband went to elementary school AND college with Peg? That's probably irrelevant, and in no way influenced my opinion, but it is part of why the book was on my radar screen.

13 comments:

Heide said...

I'm intrigued. Even if I don't get the free copy, I'm going to look for the book.

Awesome Mom said...

It sounds like an interesting book. I have young kids and we have had to move around a lot so we have had to adapt to different kinds of school. It would be interesting to see what she has to say about PE, my eldest's first school had it every day which I thought was neat and great for the kids.

liz said...

I would love to read it! My son's school gets 15 minutes of recess a day, 30 minutes for lunch. Not enough of either, IMO.

MDTaz said...

Because my girls go to a French school with an English section (not a bi-lingual school, but a predominantly French school) I am constantly confronted with questions about what's "good" for them. The school is sometimes harsh and too focused on rules and punishments. But it's a strong and rigorous curriculum, they're learning -or at least memorizing - a lot. I don't mind that it's so strict, those limits are good. At the same time, I sometimes ache that the teachers aren't more imaginative about making learning a pleasure, about catering certain projects to individualized learning styles, about making school fun and creative (this is what I imagine happens much more in the states). Ultimately, I come to the conclusion that there are good and bad points to each system, I'd never be completely satisfied anywhere.

The opportunities to get involved and impact what happens at a French school are limited -- they keep the parents at an arm's length -- but at least our English section teacher is very open to parent's needs and desires for their kids. So we get a little input!

anna ~ random handprints said...

sounds like a great book. i complain a lot about my kids' school too, but probably shouldn't.

Bethany said...

I'm a public school teacher (early intervention) and former board member who chose a parochial school for my kids because I thought it would be better ... but it wasn't. I think the public school I put them in is better, but it's far from perfect. I'd love to read this book.

Magpie said...

@Bethany - if you'd like to be in the running, you need to leave your email address in the comment. Thanks.

Ifbyyes said...

I should probably stay away from such a book, because I'm leary of schools as it is (I went to private school growing up, got thrown into public school when I was 13, and was horrified to discover that some of my new classmates COULDN'T EVEN READ) but I'm intrigued.

Have you heard anyhing about 'Tools of the Mind"? It's supposed to be a new curriculum that is blowing other curricula out of the water.

mayberry said...

I truly love my kids' school, but I also know that many people THINK their kids' school is the best, when really they're just, well, kind of deluded. So I'm curious about the book.

leanne said...

Like you, I feel very lucky. My son has recess at least once a day (sometimes twice). His school keeps class sizes small through third grade (no more than 18 kids in a class). His school has a dedicated art teacher and a dedicated music teacher (who teaches all the grades and not just strings or band). But I'd love to learn more about what makes a school good.

Rachel Wolfe rwolfe@chpnet.org said...

I have 2 kids in the NYC public school system, where class sizes are ballooning, non "core" subjects are being taken away, and recess and P.E. are overlooked in importance. I would love to see this book to get ideas about how to influence school administrators. If people haven't already read it, there's a book by John Ratey called Spark, which deals with exercise and brain development. I highly recommend it to all parents and educators, and am trying to get members of my kids' school leadership team to read it.

Caro said...

Carolina carovasquezc@gmail.com

I am interested in reading the book for various reasons. I did not grow up in the US and am raising a bilingual child. What is important to me is that the education provided is not only for the intellectual development but also for their physical and spiritual advancement. This book seems to talk about how to create that environment. Learning more about the elements that are helpful in providing children access to knowledge is also something that I find interesting in this book.

Kari said...

Your friend Julia directed all the parents of the Washington Heights and Inwood listserv your way. I'd love a book that sums up what makes a good school, especially one that skewers standardized testing and advocates play. If I don't get it, I might just have to make a virtual trip to my local bookstore!
Cheers!
kari@aya.yale.edu