A Review of Peg Tyre’s The Good School

How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve

A Review By Susan Frasca

Sending your child to the local school in your neighborhood just because it’s there, or choosing a school because that’s where your friend’s children went, is just, well, old school. Like everything else today, from the products we use to the places we eat, there are more options for your child’s education than when you were a kid. To choose the best school for your child, you’re going to have to do your homework. Luckily, that mostly entails reading this book and applying the knowledge you’ve gained into your child’s education process.

Peg Tyre isn’t an advocate of one type of education or school over another. She explores the educational options available to children, from public and private schools, to specialty public and charter schools, providing research and data on everything from teaching methods and test scores to classroom sizes and teachers themselves. No matter the school, you still need to look carefully at how it is run, what happens in the classroom, and how it supports its teachers.

Tyre’s book is like taking a course on the education system in the U.S. over the past few decades, presenting relevant history on classroom teaching philosophies, and how we got from there to here, and sometimes back again. Her section about the whole language vs. phonics debate is insightful and the scientific discoveries enlightening, and frustrating. If scientists accidentally stumbled upon the answer to why smart kids sometimes have a hard time learning to read, and researchers indeed have a formula that can ensure that 90 percent of children read, why aren’t schools using it?

Tyre recounts stories of numerous “parent foot soldiers” in the battle for this new kind of school reform. Like Marlene Romero, a 10th grade dropout, who petitioned for her child’s substandard public school to be turned over to the operators of a chain of high performing charter schools. Or the Tarnoffs, a lawyer and a realtor, who realized their daughter’s aversion to reading by the time she was in third grade, but were told that an intervention program with a reading specialist would take months to put into place. The message is clear. Parents need to take a much more proactive role in getting their kids the education they deserve. Tyre points out that today’s parents are being asked to play a pivotal role in changing their child’s education, yet don’t have the knowledge to do so.

She gives parents the research and the tools they need to feel more confident about their decisions: examples of things to look for in a classroom, in a curriculum, in a teacher. Often what parents place emphasis on, like a clean and safe environment, for example, are not the most important factors, as far as education is concerned. While parents also ask intelligent questions to help with their decision-making process, the answers provided by schools and educators aren’t always clear. What do they mean by a balanced literary approach? Tyre explains that this can mean two very different things. Why only ten minutes of recess? Why does the school favor a particular reading program? Parents should expect clear answers supported by proven statistics.

The book is organized with a beginning section devoted specifically to preschool and all of the concerns that come with it. The remainder focuses on elementary through middle school, delving into testing, teachers, math, reading and curriculum, with “Take Aways” at the end of each chapter summing up the main points. Tyre calls the final chapter a “playbook for forming a constructive coalition with your child’s school.”

With all of the data and detail, I found this to be a surprisingly good read. I no longer have school-age children, but the information is compelling and eye-opening, and the actual accounts of parents who encountered various challenging educational scenarios make it personal and relateable to readers.

Peg Tyre is the author of The Trouble With Boys, a New York Times Bestseller, and was awarded the prestigious Spencer Fellow for Education Reporting at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Her writing about education has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Family Circle and iVillage.com.

 

While raising her two children, Susan Frasca worked as a writer and editorial assistant for an award-winning parenting magazine, and quickly discovered that researching and writing about parenting issues is far easier than actually doing the parenting!  Married once and still to the best man she’s ever known, and with those children now grown adults, she writes on a variety of topics and has scores of bylines in multiple publications, as well as many other articles, blogs and books for which she can’t take credit – the downside of ghostwriting!

 

 

 

Posted in Education on November 3rd, 2011 | Permalink | Comments »
Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply