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Why has successful school reform been so difficult to achieve, despite decades of well-intentioned efforts, endless rhetoric, and billions of dollars of investment? Why do most U.S. schools continue to produce disappointing results? Why is there such a disconnect between the schools we need and the schools we have?
In this thoughtful and insightful book, Ronald A. Wolk tackles these questions head-on, identifying key assumptions that have shaped the debate on school reform for the past several decades, including the emphasis on standards and testing, calls for a longer school day and year, the push to enroll more students in advanced math classes, and the quest to place a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Backed by research and other evidence, he points out the flaws in each assumption, and then proposes alternative assumptions as the basis for new, innovative schools that would emphasize such elements as
* Individualized instruction, with various pathways for learning;
* Real-world contexts for learning;
* Performance assessment;
* A restructuring of public education to expand preschool; and
* Transformation of the teachers' role from instructor to advisor.
Acknowledging that the current system is too entrenched to accept radical reform, Wolk suggests incorporating his assumptions into a separate, parallel strategy for new schools. The result is a provocative proposal for teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, and others to consider as they contemplate the future of public education in the United States.
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Ronald A. Wolk is the founder and former editor of Education Week, Teacher Magazine, and Quality Counts. He is currently chairman of Big Picture Learning, an organization devoted to creating small, innovative schools. In 2008, the Education Commission of the States awarded him the James Bryant Conant Award for his notable contributions to education.Review:
Ron Wolk's Wasting Minds passionately challenges basic assumptions about U.S. schooling and school reform. His spare and unyielding prose carries his argument and the reader rapidly through this important book. You may not agree with Wolk's conclusions, but you won't waste your mind when you read this one. --Marshall Smith, Senior Counselor to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Under Secretary for Education in the Clinton Administration, and Dean of Stanford University's School of Education
Wasting Minds offers a smart and tightly reasoned critique of the educational status quo. But instead of leaving us with mere diagnosis, Ron Wolk offers a wise and compelling set of remedies. Writing with an idealist's heart and a pragmatist's spine, he shows how to build an education system centered on students and true to the ideals of freedom, rigor, and fairness. --Daniel H. Pink, New York Times best-selling author of A Whole New Mind and Drive
Wasting Minds is an elegant balance of insight, provocation, vision, and practicality that make it a must-read for anyone interested in meeting one of the great challenges of our times: helping educational change keep up with the changes and new demands of our world today. Ron Wolk takes accurate aim at the current, narrow efforts to reform education, without blaming all those working hard to move education forward. --Nicholas C. Donohue, President and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and former Commissioner of Education for the state of New Hampshire
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