Between high-stakes testing and the high price of college, school can seem stressful and uninviting. But four new books show how education can inspire children, uplift communities and transform the future.
BEATING IMPOSSIBLE ODDS
For Kristina Rizga, what started as a reporting assignment for Mother Jones turned into a four-year investigation of San Francisco’s Mission High School. When she first entered Mission High—a school of 950 incredibly diverse students from more than 40 countries; 75 percent are poor and 38 percent are English language learners—it was one of the lowest performing schools in the country. It was also at a crossroads, forced to face its subpar test scores or prepare for serious government intervention. In Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph, Rizga delivers an intimate look at how an alternative, progressive approach to education works at this school.
Accessible and thoroughly researched, Rizga’s book covers a brief history of America’s education reform and the path to high-stakes testing, and weaves in profiles of Mission’s students and faculty. These profiles form the heart of the book, showing students who find community and success (even if not measurable by a multiple-choice test), teachers who provide encouragement, personalized instruction and more meaningful assessments, and a principal who refuses to “teach to the test” and gives teachers a say in developing curriculum. Through their accounts, Rizga makes a strong case against test scores as a way to monitor individual learning and for teachers being in charge of school reform and accountability.
OPENING MINDS AND WALLETS
For many families, going to college is one of the biggest expenses they will ever undertake. Understandably, they want a return on this investment. But with no definite information on the payoff, the answer is never a simple yes or no. In Will College Pay Off?, Peter Cappelli examines factors that will determine whether a college or four-year degree program is worthwhile.
Cappelli focuses on the changing relationship between college and the workplace. As companies increasingly expect certain skills in recent graduates, colleges have found themselves in the middle of a dysfunctional supply chain. Many have responded with a massive shift toward programs that target niches in the job market and promise job skills. Cappelli asserts that the push away from the liberal arts may actually be hindering students’ chances of finding jobs after graduation.
He also dispels many myths about college education and the labor market, such as the rumor that there is a shortage of talent in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, or that students just need to pick “practical” majors with a clear path to jobs. The best chances for a return on a college education, Cappelli contends, come through simply finishing college in a timely manner and considering a career as a marathon, not a sprint.
Once your daughter, granddaughter or niece has been admitted to college, The Her Campus Guide to College Life should be requisite reading. Authored by the writers and editors of HerCampus.com, this guide’s direct, conversational style covers concerns like safety—both on and off campus—healthy eating habits, getting enough sleep and homesickness while also including advice for smarter alcohol consumption and the warning signs of addiction. The Her Campus Guide also breaks down ways to manage a wide variety of relationships, from roommates (including roommate conflicts and contracts) and resident assistants to professors and even “frenemies.” The chapter on dating, hooking up and sex offers straightforward, no-nonsense advice on “dormcest,” what to expect with first-time sex and other difficult, real-world topics.
Later sections cover balancing studying with extracurriculars, Greek life and social media as well as tips on managing money and landing an internship or first professional job. A variety of checklists and wellness check-ins keep this guide interactive and make it ideal for both individual use and sharing.
IN THE FAST LANE
Veteran educators may know Ron Clark from his New York Times bestseller The Essential 55, with rules about manners and success for the classroom and beyond. The former Disney Teacher of the Year Award winner and co-founder of the nationally recognized Ron Clark Academy returns with Move Your Bus. Once again he blends Southern charm with a direct approach to inspire high performance.
Clark begins with a parable of an organization like a Flintstones-style bus powered by the passengers. He then defines five types of individuals on the bus: runners (the force behind the success), joggers (who meet basic expectations), walkers (who plod through their jobs), riders (who are dead weight) and drivers (who steer an organization). To make a bus, or organization, move, Clark declares that more runners are needed and that the desire to run is in all of us.
He continues the bus parable throughout, offering practical and encouraging tips on how to become a runner. While seemingly easy advice such as asking for help, accepting criticism and listening more than talking requires deep reflection. Clark’s personal experiences, as well as anecdotes from his teaching staff, highlight the tips in action. Although examples come from Clark’s teaching career, this guide is great for teams, committees, businesses or any organized group that wants to move forward—and enjoy the ride.