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November 1, 1993
Vol. 51
No. 3

Reviews

Instructional Strategies

Home of the Wildcats

Home of the Wildcats by Joan Cutuly. Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English, 1993.
In 91 pages, Joan Cutuly blows away years of inservice and curriculum textbooks. She doesn't tell us; she shows us what is happening to the souls of painfully articulate kids and teachers.
The first section, “The Impertinent Question,” recounts experiences in a system that protects mediocrity and dishonesty. It asks educators what we're doing to or for kids when we bury ourselves in test scores and outcomes, forgetting poetry and metaphor, the real language of communication.
Part two, “The Day,” is a mixture of student prose and teacher poetry that takes us through a school day. While some words are encouraging, just as many ring out in pain and disdain.
The last part of this unconventional volume is “Re ACT Practice Test,” a satire on objective, culture-laden tests. I laughed at some answers but wept on reading the poem about Brandon. In fact, the book is worth buying just for that poem and another called “The Word.”
Skip lunch, read Home of the Wildcats! It's an innovative search for truth and personal integrity.
Available from National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 Kenyon Rd., Urbana, IL 61801, for $12.95.
—Reviewed by Jonathan Swift, School of Global Education, Livionia, Minnesota.

The Choice Controversy

The Choice Controversy. Edited by Peter W. Cookson, Jr. Newbury Park, Calif.: Corwin Press, 1992.
People who think school districts or states should not expand choice among public or private schools will like this book; 8 of 10 chapters argue against school choice. The book shows but little recognition of the reasons President Clinton has worked for public school choice or why recent polls found that more than 60 percent of the public support it.
Peter W. Cookson argues that “if consumership does replace citizenship as the basic ethos and driving force of American education, the public school system will cease to exist as we have known it.” Frank Brown writes in his chapter that “choice as a political philosophy means that current social inequalities are acceptable.” Most of the chapters agree with these ideas.
Such ideas will surprise President Clinton, who convinced the 1989 Arkansas Legislature to adopt cross-district public school choice, and endorsed this idea in the 1992 campaign. The reasons Clinton supported school choice may be similar to those described by Mary Anne Raywid in her chapter. Raywid explains why many liberal educators have worked for more choices within public education over the last 20 years.
Schools, districts, and states are learning that carefully developed choice plans can help increase student achievement, raise graduation rates, and provide fulfilling opportunities for educators. Recently, Cookson appears to have become more positive about choice, stating in a 1993 paper that “school choice can create more vibrant educational communities.... If designed properly, school choice plans can build social trust.” Poorly designed choice plans, however, create more problems than they solve. This book shows how passionate people can get about school choice.
Available from Corwin Press, P.O. Box 2526, Newbury Park, CA 91319, for $21.95.
—Reviewed by Joe Nathan, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; editor of Public Schools by Choice (Minneapolis: Free Spirit Press).

Making School Reform Happen

Making School Reform Happen by Pamela Bullard and Barbara O. Taylor. Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, 1992.
At last a lucid, enjoyable account of a reform movement that doesn't try to tell us what is wrong with American schools. Making School Reform Happen focuses on the positive changes in schools that have embraced the Effective Schools movement. Through examining real schools, the book presents a detailed yet practical analysis of how each of the seven characteristics of Effective Schools has been implemented.
Celebrating the beginning of the second generation of the movement, the authors contend that the characteristics of effectiveness have continued to be validated through solid new research and knowledge. Bullard and Taylor expand the definition of each characteristic and make a good case for their observation that many of the ideas reformers are just now discovering for school improvement have been advocated and used in Effective Schools since 1979. Current research on topics such as principles of leadership, outcome-based learning, and the continuing debate over tracking and ability grouping adds to the book's value.
Making School Reform Happen is an upbeat and uplifting call for reform that presents solutions without the usual negative rhetoric. This book will find a wide audience among educators at all levels.
Available from Allyn and Bacon, c/o Prentice Hall, 200 Old Tappan Rd., Old Tappan, NJ 07675, for $27.
—Reviewed by John Holloway, Toms River High School South, Toms River, New Jersey.

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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