cover image The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?

The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?

Dale Russakoff. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-547-84005-5

Washington Post reporter Russakoff’s fascinating study of the struggle to reform the Newark school system reveals the inner workings of a wide range of systemic and grassroots problems (charter schools, testing, accountability, private donors) plaguing education reform today. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to help transform the schools of Newark, N.J., and create a national model of education reform. The move immediately sparked a series of competing political and social decisions for Mayor Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie. Russakoff sets up the struggle to control the schools with a big-money, top-down approach on one side and a teacher-based, student-by-student, bottom-up approach on the other. Her investigation shows how the powerful Booker-Christie-Zuckerberg triumvirate struggled to truly engage the community and ultimately failed to overcome the mighty Newark political machine. Russakoff accurately depicts individual teachers working in neighborhood schools and parents and staff in the charter system, including through their own words. She also tracks the progress of a student as he struggles to navigate the daily challenges presented by Newark’s school reforms. Booker’s mayoral successor, Ras Baraka, emerges as the anti-Booker, and Newark school superintendent Cami Anderson is left making the toughest of choices. Russakoff’s eagle-eyed view of the current state of the public education system in Newark and the United States is one of the finest education surveys in recent memory. [em]Agent: Joëlle Delbourgo, Joëlle Delbourgo Associates. (Sept.) [/em]