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Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children

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Geraldlynn is a lively, astute 14-year-old. Her family, displaced by Hurricane Katrina, returns home to find a radically altered public education system. Geraldlynn's parents hope their daughter's new school will prepare her for college--but the teenager has ideals and ambitions of her own. Aidan is a fresh-faced Harvard grad drawn to New Orleans by the possibility of bring Geraldlynn is a lively, astute 14-year-old. Her family, displaced by Hurricane Katrina, returns home to find a radically altered public education system. Geraldlynn's parents hope their daughter's new school will prepare her for college--but the teenager has ideals and ambitions of her own. Aidan is a fresh-faced Harvard grad drawn to New Orleans by the possibility of bringing change to a flood-ravaged city. He teaches at an ambitious charter school with a group of newcomers determined to show the world they can use science, data, and hard work to build a model school. Mary Laurie is a veteran educator who becomes principal of one of the first public high schools to reopen after Katrina. Laurie and her staff find they must fight each day not only to educate the city's teenagers, but to keep the Walker community safe and whole. In this powerful narrative non-fiction debut, the lives of these three characters provide readers with a vivid and sobering portrait of education in twenty-first-century America. Hope Against Hope works in the same tradition as Random Family and There Are No Children Here to capture the challenges of growing up and learning in a troubled world.


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Geraldlynn is a lively, astute 14-year-old. Her family, displaced by Hurricane Katrina, returns home to find a radically altered public education system. Geraldlynn's parents hope their daughter's new school will prepare her for college--but the teenager has ideals and ambitions of her own. Aidan is a fresh-faced Harvard grad drawn to New Orleans by the possibility of bring Geraldlynn is a lively, astute 14-year-old. Her family, displaced by Hurricane Katrina, returns home to find a radically altered public education system. Geraldlynn's parents hope their daughter's new school will prepare her for college--but the teenager has ideals and ambitions of her own. Aidan is a fresh-faced Harvard grad drawn to New Orleans by the possibility of bringing change to a flood-ravaged city. He teaches at an ambitious charter school with a group of newcomers determined to show the world they can use science, data, and hard work to build a model school. Mary Laurie is a veteran educator who becomes principal of one of the first public high schools to reopen after Katrina. Laurie and her staff find they must fight each day not only to educate the city's teenagers, but to keep the Walker community safe and whole. In this powerful narrative non-fiction debut, the lives of these three characters provide readers with a vivid and sobering portrait of education in twenty-first-century America. Hope Against Hope works in the same tradition as Random Family and There Are No Children Here to capture the challenges of growing up and learning in a troubled world.

30 review for Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    The greatest weakness of the current literature addressing educational reform is its level of abstraction. "How Children Succeed," for instance, is an excellent primer on emerging theories of what allows children to be successful in school and in life, but its personal narratives are necessarily limited and largely devoted to the researchers who are developing these theories. Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" provides a strong macro-view of the arc of schoo The greatest weakness of the current literature addressing educational reform is its level of abstraction. "How Children Succeed," for instance, is an excellent primer on emerging theories of what allows children to be successful in school and in life, but its personal narratives are necessarily limited and largely devoted to the researchers who are developing these theories. Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" provides a strong macro-view of the arc of school reform, but cannot dig down into the actual thoughts and perceptions of the low-level actors (teachers, principals, parents, and students). Daniel Koretz's "Measuring Up" is a thorough and nuanced account of the limitations of standardized testing design, but also lacks compelling characters and narratives. Across the board, the school reform debate has been driven by over-arching theories of elite-actor motivations and strategies. The lives of those who are directly affected by educational reform are reduced down to superficially compelling yet context-free anecdotes that can support a main thesis. I am very happy to say that "Hope Against Hope" reverses the prevailing dynamic and focuses on the personal narratives and perceptions of those who must engage with school reform on a day-to-day basis. The trifurcated focus on three different actors within the New Orleans school system (a principal with deep roots in the local community, a Harvard TFA alum who now teaches in a new charter school, and a family with experience in both the older public new system and the new charter regime) can hardly be described as "innovative" yet provides a desperately needed counterweight to the abstract and politically charged accounts of educational elites. Carr's emphasis on the thoughts and actions of her primary characters (bolstered by a host of supporting players) allows her to pull off a subtle but important trick; she is able to humanize her characters to the point where the reader can absorb Carr's criticisms of prevailing attitudes while still appreciating the good intentions of different interest groups. This is not an accident; Carr opens her book with a declared intention to frame the conflict over education reform as one born of personal experiences rather than partisan politics. Her criticisms of American education, which acknowledge the failures of past educational regimes but are more concretely directed at the current “magic bullet” ideology of charter schools, carry more weight than other criticisms because they are carefully framed by events at New Orleans schools and the perceptions of the people served by them. It’s a welcome change of pace from the more sweeping and dramatic rhetoric employed elsewhere. But perhaps the greatest revelation in this book is Geraldlynn, the young girl who we first encounter as a freshman at a new KIPP high school. At one point Carr refers to Geraldlynn as a “Greek chorus of one” for the events at her school. And indeed, Geraldlynn proves to be remarkably attuned to the promise and problems associated with her school. The experiences of Geraldlynn’s family provide some desperately needed insight into the aspirations and burdens of the populations school reform is supposed to benefit. Geraldlynn herself is neither a dramatic charter student success story nor an obvious failure, which together with her observational skills lends her commentary a unique form of credibility. Of all the education writers I’ve encountered, only Jonathan Kozol has given ordinary students such a large platform to express their thoughts and feelings – yet Carr provides a more thorough treatment of Geraldlynn’s evolving perceptions and places then within the context of broader changes within New Orleans and across the country. This book is a laudable effort to fill a massive narrative gap in our national discussion about the future of education. While I don’t completely buy into Carr’s assertion that New Orleans is truly representative of other places throughout the country, the same types of problems, motivations, and forces are certainly at work in other districts. Some aspects of school reform (such as the campaign against teacher unions) cannot be covered effectively in a book like this, but Carr has written an excellent and engaging book that works equally well as a supplement to more abstract and politicized narratives or as a thoughtful introduction for the general reader.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    I'm no education expert, but this book was well written, informative, and interesting. Efforts to improve New Orleans public schools after Katrina and with right-leaning charter school policies made for a most fascinating look at an effort that has been pushed around the country where conservatives gain power. In places here and there, I hope we recover useful data that objectively analyzes how these approaches work. Sadly, ideologues of any stripe never admit mistakes, but open-minded folk can I'm no education expert, but this book was well written, informative, and interesting. Efforts to improve New Orleans public schools after Katrina and with right-leaning charter school policies made for a most fascinating look at an effort that has been pushed around the country where conservatives gain power. In places here and there, I hope we recover useful data that objectively analyzes how these approaches work. Sadly, ideologues of any stripe never admit mistakes, but open-minded folk can use a book like that is a useful early commentary on what New Orleans is doing. As a person in education, the charter school movement scares me. People who have dedicated their lives to teaching can be let go of for 25 year old college grads who aren't married, don't have kids, can work 80s a week, and for just $30-40 grand. But that's just me thinking about me. I do that well. Then there are the concerns for the community: outsiders come in and tell folks how to become educated, then those outsiders go back to their happy lives, leaving students to struggle through the world. Lots of complex issues at play here. However, I get why parents in New Orleans are hopeful about these young energetic do-gooders. They have not had much reason to hope (the title makes more sense now that I'm writing this). Great read overall.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Fascinating to read about a world you're working in -- and to know some of the characters in the book. Carr's reporting is terrific -- all the scenes at Sci Academy, O. Perry Walker, and KIPP Renaissance (and behind the scenes with the characters from those schools) were revealing and powerful. I think the book is vital reading for folks interested in what is happening here in New Orleans. All the same, there are places where I disagree with Carr's analysis and thinks she shades things in ways ot Fascinating to read about a world you're working in -- and to know some of the characters in the book. Carr's reporting is terrific -- all the scenes at Sci Academy, O. Perry Walker, and KIPP Renaissance (and behind the scenes with the characters from those schools) were revealing and powerful. I think the book is vital reading for folks interested in what is happening here in New Orleans. All the same, there are places where I disagree with Carr's analysis and thinks she shades things in ways other than the ways I would choose. The reporting suggests (accurately, I think) a more nuanced and complicated world than the "this or that" choices that sometimes seem to frame the associated analysis. I'm very opinionated on all the issues in this book, and so it's probably inevitable that I won't completely align with Carr's thinking or framing always. But I tried to keep an open mind throughout (I probably was most frustrated by the first 30-40 pages, but I kept on), I mostly enjoyed the book, and I felt like I learned a lot.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I saw this author speak at a conference and have wanted to read the book for over a year. I'm glad I finally got around to it. This is one of the most balanced books I've read on the subject of public education reform and charter schools. I also appreciated that Carr was honest from the start...this whole fight is really about race. We so rarely talk about race when we talk about education and I'm so glad Carr wasn't afraid to broach a subject that can be so intimidating. I also agreed with a pr I saw this author speak at a conference and have wanted to read the book for over a year. I'm glad I finally got around to it. This is one of the most balanced books I've read on the subject of public education reform and charter schools. I also appreciated that Carr was honest from the start...this whole fight is really about race. We so rarely talk about race when we talk about education and I'm so glad Carr wasn't afraid to broach a subject that can be so intimidating. I also agreed with a previous reviewer that recommends that Teach For America teachers read this book. As a former TFA recruiter, I couldn't agree more.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Estilla

    This book, for all of its grittiness, embodies the struggles and the underlying heartache and hope that I have a difficult time putting into words when people ask me about teaching in New Orleans post Katrina. Sarah Carr goes beyond the human story though to give an accurate and objective portrayal of the political climate of education reform.

  6. 5 out of 5

    nicolle jennelle

    My friends often ask me why my students are so low academically, or why there is so much violence in the city, why teaching is so hard, or why kids act wild in classes. The complexities of poverty are rooted in hundreds of years of racism and classism, and it's hard to just give an elevator answer to all these questions. There are so many reasons. This book does the complexity of the answer justice. After teaching in three inner-cities across America, I am about to start a second year in New Orl My friends often ask me why my students are so low academically, or why there is so much violence in the city, why teaching is so hard, or why kids act wild in classes. The complexities of poverty are rooted in hundreds of years of racism and classism, and it's hard to just give an elevator answer to all these questions. There are so many reasons. This book does the complexity of the answer justice. After teaching in three inner-cities across America, I am about to start a second year in New Orleans. There is nothing perfect about the school system here, but it has the most hope than any other district I've encountered. Aptly named, Hope Against Hope details the experiences in the school system post-Katrina from several points of view of actual humans, not policy. Amidst the stories, Carr examines the history of segregation in schools in New Orleans and explains the complexities of living here. In a post-Katrina city with high gun violence that often takes place midday, the city stands as having one of the highest concentrations of students with PTSD than any American city. However, New Orleans thrives because of the grit of the people; kids work hard in school because they believe they can achieve amazing things. As a teacher, knowing none of the background of the city besides the basics, I walked into my first year culture-shocked and confused. I know many teachers new to the area do the same. TFA corps members often have the best intentions but they are not given the cultural context of the city and their kids' lives when they come here. It's not clear cut as much as TFA, etc. wants to see it that way: the schools cannot end poverty without serious changes (especially mental health services) to the resources available. As Carr states, "Our leaders should not... use the success of a relatively small number of schools serving low-income children as an excuse for not addressing poverty's many dimensions." Equity is every citizen's task. Everyone should read this book, whether you live in New Orleans or not. Because to care about New Orleans is to care about the spirit of resilience in the United States. If we can't make the best education system in America here, we can't do it anywhere.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    A readable book, in the lines of a fair number of recent non-fiction works on the social realities and stories of New Orleans. Has the feel of "Zeitoun" or "Nine Lives" in its focus on personalized stories of individuals. Only in this context, the central topic around which the stories revolve is the post-Katrina reform of the New Orleans education system. While the book is probably a worthwhile primer on the charter school movement in New Orleans post Katrina, and the aspirations and debates su A readable book, in the lines of a fair number of recent non-fiction works on the social realities and stories of New Orleans. Has the feel of "Zeitoun" or "Nine Lives" in its focus on personalized stories of individuals. Only in this context, the central topic around which the stories revolve is the post-Katrina reform of the New Orleans education system. While the book is probably a worthwhile primer on the charter school movement in New Orleans post Katrina, and the aspirations and debates surrounding it, the book really fails, I think, in some critically important ways. First, there is no argument or thesis. I guess it's fine to tell the stories of a few individuals who are actively participating in the education reform movement in the city, but what's the point other than to tell a few human-interest stories, engaging though they are? I guess it could be simply that there is a controversy about whether the charter movement is good or bad, but that's not an argument, it's just reiterating a fact that we already know. Second, telling a few stories inevitably leaves many stories out. This is the big danger in all such works (and shapes my critique of "Nine Lives," too) in the sense that a book that embraces human storytelling as a methodology tends to enforce a generalization of the topic that inevitably fails because it leaves so many other stories out and untold. Third, the book fails structurally, too. There is no coherent rhyme nor reason to much of the sections in each of the chapters and their corresponding parts. The book jumps from stories about one of the teachers or students or principals, to commentaries on education policy, to stories about other individuals that aren't really connected except only tangentially to the main human interest story narratives. While I did find the book an easy and even enjoyable read, I found it was also a mish-mash of storytelling that just weakened the point of the book, whatever that point might have been.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ariana

    A beautiful, thorough, dedicated work of journalism on a subject that is all too often talked about only in generalities and uninformed assumptions. Particularly interesting to someone who recently graduate from a public high school that rewrote its charter during my time there- I was constantly realizing the background behind new rules and strategies being implemented- and also as an incoming student at Tulane University, an elite, mostly white, wealthy university right next to the disintegrati A beautiful, thorough, dedicated work of journalism on a subject that is all too often talked about only in generalities and uninformed assumptions. Particularly interesting to someone who recently graduate from a public high school that rewrote its charter during my time there- I was constantly realizing the background behind new rules and strategies being implemented- and also as an incoming student at Tulane University, an elite, mostly white, wealthy university right next to the disintegrating, desperate and hurricane devastated schools of New Orleans that Sarah Carr so eloquently brings to light. The various perspectives are both pathos driven and necessary for the bigger picture of just how complicated and how many factors there are in this struggle for successful education.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    This book surprised me with how interesting I found it. The thing I liked best was the way the author managed to make all the players seem human on the page (even those who I really disagree with in policy, like the Sci Academy founder) and make their motives understandable, without seeming to take sides. After reading, I'm still not sure where Sarah Carr herself would fall on the many debates the ed world is gripped with -- and that's a good thing. She raises a LOT of really powerful and import This book surprised me with how interesting I found it. The thing I liked best was the way the author managed to make all the players seem human on the page (even those who I really disagree with in policy, like the Sci Academy founder) and make their motives understandable, without seeming to take sides. After reading, I'm still not sure where Sarah Carr herself would fall on the many debates the ed world is gripped with -- and that's a good thing. She raises a LOT of really powerful and important questions and doesn't take the easy way out of trying to scapegoat one side/group/person over another. It's also really well written and enjoyable.

  10. 4 out of 5

    April

    I think Hope Against Hope should be a must-read for every adult New Orleanian and every educator nationwide. Sarah Carr explores post-Katrina education reform in New Orleans through narratives and humanizes the complex issues (race, class, infrastructure, economy, politics, crime, etc.) that impact learning in America.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    Read this one on the recommendation of a close friend who is a school psychologist in New Orleans. I love how balanced Carr's approach is -- she manages to cover a variety of different schools and a variety of different stakeholders/participants without doing the kind of inappropriate direct comparisons that you often hear during discussions of urban education and education reform. Her research is really thorough and the writing is excellent. I appreciate that while Carr makes suggestions for ed Read this one on the recommendation of a close friend who is a school psychologist in New Orleans. I love how balanced Carr's approach is -- she manages to cover a variety of different schools and a variety of different stakeholders/participants without doing the kind of inappropriate direct comparisons that you often hear during discussions of urban education and education reform. Her research is really thorough and the writing is excellent. I appreciate that while Carr makes suggestions for education in New Orleans and beyond (particularly in her epilogue) she makes it very clear that no are no easy answers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Rice

    As a teacher in New Orleans, I enjoyed reading this book to better understand underlying issues that persist in New Orleans and other similar cities. While this book focuses on New Orleans charter schools, Carr identifies several issues that exist in our schools nationwide such as discipline, ineffective teachers, and resources for students (guidance counselors, college admissions counselors, financial aid). There are a variety of perspectives shared. I look forward to learning more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Excellent but for a book with hope in its title it feels very dispiriting. Charting the waters between charters and traditional schools/teachers unions is a tough journalistic task these days, but Carr does a nice job not appearing to take sides in her portrayal of a student/family, a principal, and a teacher in different schools in New Orleans. Instead, what's presented feels like heartbreak after heartbreak. Well meaning people trying to exist in or change a series of schools and behaviors tha Excellent but for a book with hope in its title it feels very dispiriting. Charting the waters between charters and traditional schools/teachers unions is a tough journalistic task these days, but Carr does a nice job not appearing to take sides in her portrayal of a student/family, a principal, and a teacher in different schools in New Orleans. Instead, what's presented feels like heartbreak after heartbreak. Well meaning people trying to exist in or change a series of schools and behaviors that seem unchangeable. For example, the no-excuses atmosphere of two of the schools--a new KIPP high school and another one called Sci--maybe raise passage rates on state tests, but seem to do nothing about college preparation. What Carr effectively captures really well is some of the cultural disconnect between teachers/schools and students--talking about how the vernacular does not always match up, but also expectations about what it means to be ready for and go to college also don't line up. This leads to the unfortunate recommendation at the end of the book that the approach to education should be more "holistic"--I can't emphasize enough how much I hate seeing that word in policy discussions. But it's hard to argue against the premise that there are some non-academic challenges to be faced as well. A few caveats: New Orleans is in some ways a fascinating place to locate a discussion around public education because all the upheaval has led to a lot of experimentation with charters and essentially the end of a major urban school system. But that turmoil also means that there's a lot of new schools that by virtue of their newness are likely still working the kinks out. That raises some questions, about the KIPP school particularly, as the book profiles its first year. It's possible that even now it's still as much of a mess or it could be better after the school gets more established. Back to the hopelessness, though. The parts around higher education in many ways felt like the roughest part to read. The institutions try to instill a lot of enthusiasm for the students to go to college, but there appears to be no content behind that message. Students seem very place-bound and afraid to go anywhere far away from their homes. The teachers and schools are trying hard to prepare students academically, but they seem so far below where they need to be and the strong hand-holding environment they are in will be ripped apart by most colleges' you're on your own mentality. It's clear that more must be done to give people a better sense of what they need to do, but this is already a problem in schools with a longer day, weekend classes, and some summer work. Some have argued that this book is about school choice and neo-liberalism see here for example. I didn't see it that way. Yes, all of the schools here are charters, but it really feels like a discussion of just how hard it is to succeed in an urban environment with very real considerations and concerns of the working poor. I highly doubt that the problems with behavior, getting kids engaged, etc. really differ depending on the school that much. That too just adds to the sense of hopelessness, though. In most issues of public policy it's easy to find a scapegoat and argue that removing/reforming them is all that's needed to change the situation. This book presents a much more complex picture, one that unfortunately doesn't seem to have any easy solutions.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bill Tierney

    I was oddly unaffected by this book. Normally, I resonate to people’s stories struggling against all odds. Sarah Carr’s 316 page narrative chronicles the challenges that primarily three individuals face in schools in post-Katrina New Orleans. There is a 14 year old who we want to see succeed. There is an ambitious, idealistic, TFA teacher who has a new interpretation on what it takes to succeed and bring about reform. And then there is an old-time educator who faces the daily challenges of not s I was oddly unaffected by this book. Normally, I resonate to people’s stories struggling against all odds. Sarah Carr’s 316 page narrative chronicles the challenges that primarily three individuals face in schools in post-Katrina New Orleans. There is a 14 year old who we want to see succeed. There is an ambitious, idealistic, TFA teacher who has a new interpretation on what it takes to succeed and bring about reform. And then there is an old-time educator who faces the daily challenges of not simply running a school, but also assuring that the children are safe and that learning actually takes place. Carr is a talented writer and has not only received fellowships to support her work, but also has written for mainstream publications. Of consequence, the writing is quick, crisp, and to the point. So why was I left unimpressed? I’m not sure what the point of the text was, perhaps. With someone like Jonathan Kozol, I find that I have a sense of what the author wants me to believe. I can reject or embrace his beliefs, but there is a moral narrative that comes through in the text. In more traditional work, we have a research methodology, a hypothesis and findings that we again can either support or reject. But, in Hope Against Hope, we are told facts in a dispassionate manner that presumably enables us to feel passion or to analyze the situation in a clear-headed manner. I’m not sure Carr succeeded. The situation in New Orleans is complex, and we probably need greater analysis, rather than merely reportage. The makeover in New Orleans that is being attempted has fierce opponents and proponents. While we don’t necessarily need to know the correct answers via the author’s stated opinion, I didn’t come away from the book with any greater insight than when I had started. Over a generation ago, Harry Wolcott penned The Man in the Principal’s Office to document the goings on of a school’s principal. The text was a workmanlike ethnography and somewhat current for its time, but I was never much impressed by it. When I work in schools, they are highly-charged, emotional places with an awful lot going on; either an author should capture that dynamism or step back and analyze it in a manner that enables us to understand a particular problem better than if we had not read the text. When I concluded Carr’s book, I simply felt that there sure are a lot of problems down there in the Big Easy, and I didn’t worry about or cheer on any of the book’s central characters.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    New Orleans became a testing ground for educational theories after Katrina's devastation led the the firing of the New Orleans school system teachers and the educational system was rebuilt with many outside run charter schools. Even traditional schools had to measure their progress by an increasing number of tests. The author follows the stories of a teacher at a charter school, a principal at a traditional school, and a family whose daughters attend charter schools to tell a story of both succe New Orleans became a testing ground for educational theories after Katrina's devastation led the the firing of the New Orleans school system teachers and the educational system was rebuilt with many outside run charter schools. Even traditional schools had to measure their progress by an increasing number of tests. The author follows the stories of a teacher at a charter school, a principal at a traditional school, and a family whose daughters attend charter schools to tell a story of both success and failure. She objectively reports on the positives and negatives of the schools and how children's lives are affected. As in life, nothing is black and white. I found the book readable, interesting and helpful in illuminating many of the issues (poverty, racism, language, health care, transportation, school rules, teaching methods, etc.) that affect the education of children. This was definitely worth reading.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lucille

    Sarah Carr’s “Hope Against Hope” unravels the complexity of the problems that exist in New Orleans’ schools and the educational reform that takes place after Hurricane Katrina by bringing to light some of the very real issues seen by students and educators. The overhaul of the school system in New Orleans may have improved test scores, but does this mean that the students are better off? There are still other problems that Carr highlights, such as outside factors of neighborhoods in poverty, pre Sarah Carr’s “Hope Against Hope” unravels the complexity of the problems that exist in New Orleans’ schools and the educational reform that takes place after Hurricane Katrina by bringing to light some of the very real issues seen by students and educators. The overhaul of the school system in New Orleans may have improved test scores, but does this mean that the students are better off? There are still other problems that Carr highlights, such as outside factors of neighborhoods in poverty, preserving identity and culture, as well as the policy and structure of reform taking place. This all conveys the awareness that charter schools or any other one-sided reforms cannot solve the tangled web of issues that have existed for multiple decades. I very much enjoyed that she captured the stories of students and educators in order to display the problems that exist-- this method incorporates emotion, yet leaves you with an unbiased perspective to see and unravel the truth for yourself.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    In the process of reading this very insightful book, and I cannot put it down. I was a sophomore in high school when Katrina destroyed so much of the city--not just in the physical sense, but lives, families, and the Joy of the city. I graduated from college and went on to teach in a public school and witnessed firsthand the educational inequality problem. What I love about this book is the consistent reference to a holistic approach to solving education--it takes not only great teachers with hi In the process of reading this very insightful book, and I cannot put it down. I was a sophomore in high school when Katrina destroyed so much of the city--not just in the physical sense, but lives, families, and the Joy of the city. I graduated from college and went on to teach in a public school and witnessed firsthand the educational inequality problem. What I love about this book is the consistent reference to a holistic approach to solving education--it takes not only great teachers with high expectations in the classroom, but policy overhauls in housing, the economy, and health, to name a few (a concerted effort). I love New Orleans. It's such an amazing city, and I'm so happy this book was written to provide much needed insight into what's happening in the education system in a city that has shown so much hope, despite so many losses.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    this is a well-written, engaging piece of education journalism about the rise of charter schools in post-Katrina new orleans. i was most impressed by her even-handedness throughout the book when she discussed the controversy and deep divides around charter schools. i thought she presented both sides of the issue fairly, and let the stories of the students, parents, teachers, and administrators speak for themselves (as best she could) - and, the most poignant insights came when those stories illu this is a well-written, engaging piece of education journalism about the rise of charter schools in post-Katrina new orleans. i was most impressed by her even-handedness throughout the book when she discussed the controversy and deep divides around charter schools. i thought she presented both sides of the issue fairly, and let the stories of the students, parents, teachers, and administrators speak for themselves (as best she could) - and, the most poignant insights came when those stories illuminated truths that the "debate" could not. her "policy recommendations" in the epilogue seemed a bit out of place, as this wasn't a piece of scholarly work, and it wasn't clear exactly what data she based those recommendations on. a solid read for those who are both new to and veterans of the education policy/reform world.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Odessa

    "The debate over urban education in America, crystallized in New Orleans, speaks to broad, deeply rooted tensions in our country over what the civil rights movement should look like in the twenty-first century and who should lead it. It speaks to fundamental disagreements over how the push for racial equality should proceed, at a time when the end goal remains as elusive as ever. And it speaks to a nationwide loss of trust- in our public institutions, each other, and ourselves. At its heart, thi "The debate over urban education in America, crystallized in New Orleans, speaks to broad, deeply rooted tensions in our country over what the civil rights movement should look like in the twenty-first century and who should lead it. It speaks to fundamental disagreements over how the push for racial equality should proceed, at a time when the end goal remains as elusive as ever. And it speaks to a nationwide loss of trust- in our public institutions, each other, and ourselves. At its heart, this is the story of one community's painful struggle- in the wake of one of the most tragic disasters in our history- to rebuild that trust."- Sarah Carr, author of Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City and the Struggle to Educate America's Children

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Carr adeptly puts faces and stories to the charter versus traditional school debate. Her three subjects jump off the page to the point that you cannot help but think about them when not reading. More importantly these stories illuminate the pain points of the school system in New Orleans. Her unbiased perspective was refreshing. By noting that pre-Katrina schools did not produce exemplary academic results yet mostly white charter schools have reduced New Orleans' black middle class (made up of m Carr adeptly puts faces and stories to the charter versus traditional school debate. Her three subjects jump off the page to the point that you cannot help but think about them when not reading. More importantly these stories illuminate the pain points of the school system in New Orleans. Her unbiased perspective was refreshing. By noting that pre-Katrina schools did not produce exemplary academic results yet mostly white charter schools have reduced New Orleans' black middle class (made up of mostly teachers), Carr offers a nuanced perspective to a contentious issue. I think that the KIPP schools are too disciplined and do not allow students who learn more fluid environment, but I appreciate Carr's partiality. This was overall an insightful read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Very interesting look at education reform in New Orleans. Focuses on three schools and three points of view: a principal, a teacher and a student. The books flows easily between these three stories and the author did a great job at really allowing the reader to get inside the joy and frustrations, the successes and failures of each of the main characters. Probably the only negative thing I can say about the book is that the author doesn't have the ability to see into the future to tell me what ha Very interesting look at education reform in New Orleans. Focuses on three schools and three points of view: a principal, a teacher and a student. The books flows easily between these three stories and the author did a great job at really allowing the reader to get inside the joy and frustrations, the successes and failures of each of the main characters. Probably the only negative thing I can say about the book is that the author doesn't have the ability to see into the future to tell me what happens to everyone (the book covers the 2010 school year, and has an epilogue which covers through some of 2012, but I want to know how everyone is 2, 5, 10, 20 years from now!).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Booktart

    Great for anyone interested in New Orleans, education in general, teaching, and the pros and cons of the charter school movement. You can tell that Carr is fond of the three subjects she follows (the teacher, the principal, and the student) but she does a good job of impartially discussing the pros and cons of the charter school movement and of how the education system in New Orleans has changed since Katrina. She also effectively intersperses history and policy discussions with the stories of h Great for anyone interested in New Orleans, education in general, teaching, and the pros and cons of the charter school movement. You can tell that Carr is fond of the three subjects she follows (the teacher, the principal, and the student) but she does a good job of impartially discussing the pros and cons of the charter school movement and of how the education system in New Orleans has changed since Katrina. She also effectively intersperses history and policy discussions with the stories of her three subjects (and other students, teachers, and administrators). I wish I could have an update on them in a year!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate Lombardi

    My son, a fifth grade teacher at a charter school in New Orleans, recommended this book to me. In it, the author tackles the often politically fraught topic of school reform by following three story lines: a family in NOLA trying to get their 14 year old daughter a good education, a young, dedicated but often overwhelmed teacher, and a veteran NOLA school administrator. We hear about all of their experiences and struggles, and through the various perspectives, the author gives a balanced account My son, a fifth grade teacher at a charter school in New Orleans, recommended this book to me. In it, the author tackles the often politically fraught topic of school reform by following three story lines: a family in NOLA trying to get their 14 year old daughter a good education, a young, dedicated but often overwhelmed teacher, and a veteran NOLA school administrator. We hear about all of their experiences and struggles, and through the various perspectives, the author gives a balanced account of what's going wrong - and right - as New Orleans struggles to rebuilt their schools after Katrina.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Lubell

    Interesting account of three new charter schools in New Orleans shortly after Katrina. I thought it did an admirable job of showing both the strengths and problems of charters. In particular, the KIPP charters seemed to push people into higher positions after just a couple years teaching and the book describes how the teachers and administrators mean well and want to help the kids but don't always know what they should do to help. And the problems of New Orleans seem overwhelming. The author is Interesting account of three new charter schools in New Orleans shortly after Katrina. I thought it did an admirable job of showing both the strengths and problems of charters. In particular, the KIPP charters seemed to push people into higher positions after just a couple years teaching and the book describes how the teachers and administrators mean well and want to help the kids but don't always know what they should do to help. And the problems of New Orleans seem overwhelming. The author is careful not to say the problems excuse the schools (and states a few times that the charters are doing better than the noncharters.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I thought I wasn't going to read this book since I've read so many of these but then realized that I knew the author in the real world and so couldn't resist. I think the book does a remarkable job of getting past the vitriol and politics and giving us detailed looks at real people just trying to do their best and all the social, cultural, historical elements that led them all to be where they are now. It's a good overview of an incredibly complicated landscape, written with a lot of compassion I thought I wasn't going to read this book since I've read so many of these but then realized that I knew the author in the real world and so couldn't resist. I think the book does a remarkable job of getting past the vitriol and politics and giving us detailed looks at real people just trying to do their best and all the social, cultural, historical elements that led them all to be where they are now. It's a good overview of an incredibly complicated landscape, written with a lot of compassion and knowledge.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Starr

    Can young white people save the failing schools in New Orleans? The answer is maybe, kinda sorta, probably not. I thought the biggest success story of the book, which followed a charter school teacher, a student at KIPP, and a principal at a more traditional public school, was that of the principal--she fought for her school, didn't get bogged down by data and the ridiculously misguided laser focus on just getting to college, and made meaningful connections within her community. Can young white people save the failing schools in New Orleans? The answer is maybe, kinda sorta, probably not. I thought the biggest success story of the book, which followed a charter school teacher, a student at KIPP, and a principal at a more traditional public school, was that of the principal--she fought for her school, didn't get bogged down by data and the ridiculously misguided laser focus on just getting to college, and made meaningful connections within her community.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rona Simmons

    Nonfiction account of the rebuilding of schools in New Orleans after Katrina. As told through a student and her mother, a teacher, and a principal. Provokes a number of questions on the topic of education of inner city underprivileged children, including whether or not the emphasis ought to be in getting all of these children into college and what the role of the school system is in raising children vis a vis their parents.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicki Anselmo

    As a New Orleans public school teacher, I went in a little skeptical as to what Carr's stance would be, often folks are on one extreme or the other in their views of charter schools and on the transformation of New Orleans' schools in the last decade. Carr provides a very fact-based, balanced view on the history and progress of New Orleans schools. I especially loved the national and local historical context she brought to her writing. As a New Orleans public school teacher, I went in a little skeptical as to what Carr's stance would be, often folks are on one extreme or the other in their views of charter schools and on the transformation of New Orleans' schools in the last decade. Carr provides a very fact-based, balanced view on the history and progress of New Orleans schools. I especially loved the national and local historical context she brought to her writing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Schiefelbein

    Trying to get a background on what's going on in my girl's future home and the state of education in the area. This was very informative and heartbreaking read. I couldn't put it down. The writer is a newspaper journalist for the Times Picayune and doesn't demonize any particular group or program. She just points out the positives and negatives of all. A must read for Brooke before she goes. Trying to get a background on what's going on in my girl's future home and the state of education in the area. This was very informative and heartbreaking read. I couldn't put it down. The writer is a newspaper journalist for the Times Picayune and doesn't demonize any particular group or program. She just points out the positives and negatives of all. A must read for Brooke before she goes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    S

    I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in New Orleans schools, to anyone in a privileged position trying to help those less privileged and to anyone interested in our current educational system. Reading nonfiction is usually a bit of a struggle for me and I found this book an easy, very engaging read. Thought provoking.

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