An award-winning professor and an accomplished educator, Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine take us beyond the hype of reform and inside some of America’s most innovative classrooms to show what is working—and what isn’t. In a world where test scores have been king, this boldly humanistic book offers a rich account of what education can be at its best.
In this lucid and engaging study of the American secondary school system, education professors Mehta (The Allure of Order) and Fine offer a descriptive and prescriptive vision of "what it would take to create engaging, equitable, and intellectually vibrant learning environments" for all students. The authors first examine successful "thematic" schools, including a progressive school that uses project-based instruction, a "no excuses" high school that employs "regimes of tight discipline and control," and a school that utilizes the International Baccalaureate program, to discover the "school-level characteristics" that drive superior test scores, high college admission, and "deep cognitive engagement." They conclude that mastery, identity, and creativity define the "powerful learning experiences" emerging from classrooms that offer "a deep focus on thinking and reasoning," "balance rigor with joy," and regard students as meaning-makers rather than passive recipients of knowledge. The authors offer lively vignettes, a framework grounded in history and research, and a powerful, precise, and organized critical analysis. Mehta and Fine's account of a holistic model for cultivating "learners ready to meet the challenges of the modern world" will be as accessible to an intelligent parent as to a school board administrator.