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Brill’s vivid narrative, filled with unexpected twists and turns, takes us from the Oval Office, where President Obama signs off on an unprecedented plan that will infuriate the teachers unions because it offers billions to states that win an education reform “contest”; to boisterous assemblies, where parents join the fight over their children’s schools; to a Fifth Avenue apartment, where billionaires plan a secret fund to promote school reform; to a Colorado high school, where students who seemed destined to fail are instead propelled to college; to state capitols across the country, where school reformers hoping to win Obama’s "contest" push bills that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. It’s the story of an unlikely army - fed-up public-school parents, Ivy League idealists, hedge-funders, civil rights activists, conservative Republicans, insurgent Democrats - squaring off against unions that the reformers claim are protecting a system that works for the adults but victimizes the children.
Class Warfare is filled with extraordinary people taking extraordinary paths: a young woman who goes into teaching almost by accident, then becomes so talented and driven that fighting burnout becomes her biggest challenge; an antitrust lawyer who almost brought down Bill Gates’ Microsoft and now forms a partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates to overhaul New York’s schools; a naive Princeton student who launches an army of school reformers with her senior thesis; a California teachers union lobbyist who becomes the mayor of Los Angeles and then the union’s prime antagonist; a stubborn young teacher who, as a child growing up on Park Avenue, had been assumed to be learning disabled but ends up co-founding the nation’s most successful charter schools; and an anguished national union leader who walks a tightrope between compromising enough to save her union and giving in so much that her members will throw her out.
Brill not only takes us inside their roller-coaster battles, he also concludes with a surprising prescription for what it will take from both sides to put the American dream back in America’s schools.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Wade T. Brooks on 06-25-12
A Good Place to Start
If you are interested in the history and current status of the efforts to reform the public education system in the U.S. this is a good place to start. This book outlines all the political, education, and union players in the reformers vs. unions vs. government battle for the hearts and minds of our children.
A number of interesting programs are detailed including: Teach For America, Race to the Top, Charter Schools, Gates Foundation, KIPP Schools, No Child Left Behind, etc. The book goes into detail on all the individual players and the battles they waged and are still waging.
If you are unfamiliar with the fight here is a quick synopsis: U.S. student test scores have been falling rapidly and rank in the bottom third globally even though we are one of the top countries in spending per student. The reformers believe this is because there are no measurement tools related to teacher performance and student outcomes. The unions vehemently deny that those tools have any value and think there are too many student variables to effectively measure teacher performance.
The reformers are fighting to change the laws and create outcome based performance measurements and incentives. Most of the recently published data supports the reformers position and they are locked in a battle with the largest union in the US, the national teachers union - NEA, who has a tremendous amount of political clout and money.
Worth the read if you are interested in this complex issue.
The book is biased on the side of the reformers.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Jodie on 02-17-12
I disagree with some of the other reviews - this book is not slamming unions. In fact, I think it very honestly portrays the issues. Some of the people in the book are definately anti-union, but he is only reporting their feelings. He also reports the unions' side. I think it is just that when the reader hears what is being done by the unions, they can't help the emotions that come up.
Brill basically uncovers all the events that have happened in education for the last 10 years or so, which helped me gain some clarity that I was missing. As a doctoral student, I found this book to be extremely helpful. He gave me some background on the movers and shakers in education which helped me understand where they came from and why. He speaks not only of unions and the Obama administration, but also about Teach for America, the New Teacher Project, New Orleans, The Gates Foundation Grants, Michelle Rhee, Colorado and Michael Johnson, Harlem Success Academy, KIPP Schools, and the Race to the Top program.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful