Reclaiming Our Schools: The Struggle for Chicago School Reform

Maribeth Vander Weele, Author
Maribeth Vander Weele, Author Wild Onion Books $12.95 (366p) ISBN 978-0-8294-0773-0
Hardcover - 366 pages - 978-0-8294-0812-6
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Chicago Sun-Times education reporter Vander Weele provides a thorough expose that, while focusing on the Chicago public school system, also looks at reform movements in New Jersey, Kentucky, New York City, Los Angeles and Dade County, Fla. Her research chronicles the five-year experiment in decentralizing the school system. It is a story of buildings on the verge of condemnation: ``At Calumet High School, the roof leaked for two decades, rotting paint and plaster.'' Some buildings are decrepit enough to be lethal-at least for the poll watcher who fell to his death after opening the wrong second-story door. Vander Weele tells of the bleak resignation of hundreds of teachers whose enthusiasm has collapsed within a bureaucracy. One teacher says of her principal: ""`If she wants the animals passed at any cost that's what she'll get.'"" In this atmosphere, the occasional ``indefatigable reformer'' is even more extraordinary, like those who served administrators rancid meals meant for students or painted school buildings themselves when no money was allotted. The fiasco made of state lottery funds earmarked for education and the grotesque proportion of education dollars spent outside the classroom will be of interest to any reader, but this book is especially important for those concerned with public education as it enters the 21st century. Photos. (Sept.)
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