The prize Who's in charge of America's schools?

Dale Russakoff

Book - 2015

"Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools. They got an education. When Mark Zuckerberg announced in front of a cheering Oprah audience his $100 million pledge to transform the Newark Schools -- and to solve the education crisis in every city in America -- it looked like a huge win for then-mayor Cory Booker and governor Chris Christie. But their plans soon ran into a constituency not so easily moved -- Newark's key education players, fie...rcely protective of their billion-dollar-per-annum system. It's a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark's students. Expert journalist Dale Russakoff delivers a story of high ideals and hubris, good intentions and greed, celebrity and street smarts -- as reformers face off against entrenched unions, skeptical parents, and bewildered students. The growth of charters forces the hand of Newark's superintendent Cami Anderson, who closes, consolidates, or redesigns more than a third of the city's schools -- a scenario on the horizon for many urban districts across America. Most moving are Russakoff's portraits from inside the district's schools, of home-grown principals and teachers, long stuck in a hopeless system -- and often the only real hope for the children of Newark. The Prize is a portrait of a titanic struggle over the future of education for the poorest kids, and a cautionary tale for those who care about the shape of America's schools. "--

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Subjects
Published
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015.
Language
English
Physical Description
246 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [230]-237) and index.
ISBN
9780547840055
0547840055
Main Author
Dale Russakoff (author)
  • The pact
  • Seduction in Sun Valley
  • The view from Avon Avenue
  • Engaging the community
  • The rise of the anti-Booker candidacy
  • Searching for Newark's superman
  • Hi, I'm Cami
  • District school, charter school
  • Transformational change meets the political sausage factory
  • Alif rising
  • The leading men move on
  • One Newark, whose Newark?
  • No excuses
  • Appendix I. Where the $200 million went
  • Appendix II. Newark schools by the numbers.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In 2010, when Mark Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to transform Newark's public schools, it was the most spectacular part of the growing trend of philanthropy married to politics aimed at curing the most intractable problem of contemporary urban issues. Then Newark mayor Cory Booker teamed with Governor Chris Christie to turn around one of the most troubled urban school districts in the nation, favoring the creation of charter schools. It would mean massive reform of the way teachers were paid, rewarded, or let go, with accountability tied to student test scores. It was to be a national model. But along the way, the plan ran into massive resistance, not just from the teachers‘ union but also from parents and local community groups suspicious of outsiders. Russakoff takes a detailed look at the major players in the dramatic fight to reform Newark's schools and win what had long been considered the prize of a huge school budget as well as the prize of a potential national reform example, if it could be achieved. Russakoff portrays the powerbrokers arrayed to make radical changes, the local principals and teachers on both sides of the charter-school debate, and the parents and students caught in the crossfire. This is an engrossing look at the school reform movement and the hard lessons learned in Newark. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

First published in serial form in The New Yorker, The Prize is a cautionary tale about how well-meaning school reform initiatives and the ambitions of powerful politicians failed to bring systematic change to the Newark, NJ, public schools.  Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie allied with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who made a $100 million gift to reform what seemed a failing urban educational system.  Russakoff explains how the reform plan developed by Booker and his team of outside consultants was fundamentally anti-democratic in tone and practice, and so failed to engage Newark residents.  State-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson ignored the legitimate concerns raised by Newark residents, community leaders, and educators, thus causing frustrations among Newark public school teachers, students, and parents.  In the face of continuing widespread poverty, declining student population, increased financial support of charter schools, and poor reception of her "One Newark" reform plan, Anderson ultimately resigned, marking the end of the project and efforts to return local control to Newark schools.  In discussing all this, Russakoff reveals the critical need, on the part of school reformers, to engage all the educational stakeholders in a community.  Exposing the perils of top-down educational reform, this volume is invaluable for those interested in improving urban education. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. --W. R. Fernekes, Rutgers Graduate School of Education William Robert Fernekes Rutgers Graduate School of Education http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.194102 Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Even before he became mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker was a supporter of school reform and particularly charter schools; as mayor, he persuaded Gov. Chris Christie to form an alliance that would revive the ailing Newark school system while serving as an example to the nation. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg stepped in with a commitment of $100 million, but the top-down management of the alliance didn't initially allow for feedback from teachers, parents, and students, and the city's financial woes further undercut its efforts. In the end, the realities of the billion-dollar-per-annum system needed more than a financial fix. It's an education for everyone. [Page 62]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

It was an ambitious plan: to completely reorganize the school system in Newark, NJ. With three of the country's top movers and shakers (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, then-Newark mayor Cory Booker, and NJ governor Chris Christie) leading the change and finding the funding, it looked like the dream of turning around one of the country's worst school districts was actually within reach. What could go wrong? Unfortunately, plenty. Key ingredients were missing. Teachers, parents, and students were not included in the planning, and they perceived this omission as disrespect, feared the changes, and felt helpless. Another major lacking component was a system for accountability of funds to insure the money got to where it was most needed; instead of funneling down where it would affect the children directly, funds were often used for salaries and bonuses for consultants. Former Washington Post reporter Russakoff shows how this endeavor ended up a fight between charter and district schools. Politics became an unexpected player in the process as, once again, the best way to meet the needs of the children fell by the wayside. VERDICT Russakoff tells the story well, stating the facts and presenting the issue without bias. This title will appeal to the casual reader as well as to those invested in the education of America's children. [See Prepub Alert, 3/9/15.]—Terry Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS [Page 91]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Washington Post reporter Russakoff's fascinating study of the struggle to reform the Newark school system reveals the inner workings of a wide range of systemic and grassroots problems (charter schools, testing, accountability, private donors) plaguing education reform today. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to help transform the schools of Newark, N.J., and create a national model of education reform. The move immediately sparked a series of competing political and social decisions for Mayor Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie. Russakoff sets up the struggle to control the schools with a big-money, top-down approach on one side and a teacher-based, student-by-student, bottom-up approach on the other. Her investigation shows how the powerful Booker-Christie-Zuckerberg triumvirate struggled to truly engage the community and ultimately failed to overcome the mighty Newark political machine. Russakoff accurately depicts individual teachers working in neighborhood schools and parents and staff in the charter system, including through their own words. She also tracks the progress of a student as he struggles to navigate the daily challenges presented by Newark's school reforms. Booker's mayoral successor, Ras Baraka, emerges as the anti-Booker, and Newark school superintendent Cami Anderson is left making the toughest of choices. Russakoff's eagle-eyed view of the current state of the public education system in Newark and the United States is one of the finest education surveys in recent memory. Agent: Joëlle Delbourgo, Joëlle Delbourgo Associates. (Sept.) [Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools. They got an education. When Mark Zuckerberg announced in front of a cheering Oprah audience his $100 million pledge to transform the Newark Schools -- and to solve the education crisis in every city in America -- it looked like a huge win for then-mayor Cory Booker and governor Chris Christie. But their plans soon ran into a constituency not so easily moved -- Newark's key education players, fiercely protective of their billion-dollar-per-annum system. It's a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark's students. Expert journalist Dale Russakoff delivers a story of high ideals and hubris, good intentions and greed, celebrity and street smarts -- as reformers face off against entrenched unions, skeptical parents, and bewildered students. The growth of charters forces the hand of Newark's superintendent Cami Anderson, who closes, consolidates, or redesigns more than a third of the city's schools -- a scenario on the horizon for many urban districts across America. Most moving are Russakoff's portraits from inside the district's schools, of home-grown principals and teachers, long stuck in a hopeless system -- and often the only real hope for the children of Newark. The Prize is a portrait of a titanic struggle over the future of education for the poorest kids, and a cautionary tale for those who care about the shape of America's schools. "--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A behind-the-scenes account of the high-stakes race to reform Newark's failing schools draws on inside access to such figures as Mark Zuckerbeg, Cory Booker, and Chris Christie to offer insight into the initiative's obstacles, detractors, and economic realities.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A behind-the-scenes account of the high-stakes race to reform Newark's failing schools draws on inside access to such figures as Mark Zuckerberg, Cory Booker and Chris Christie to offer insight into the initiative's obstacles, detractors and economic realities. 40,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Author Dale Russakoff presents students, academics, education professionals working in a wide variety of contexts, and general interest readers with an examination of school reform in the United States as understood through the events leading to and following the historic gift of $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg and his wife to the schools of Newark, New Jersey. The author has organized main body of her text in twelve roughly chronological chapters that examine the politics, economics, and societal ramifications of school reform in the United States. The author is a journalist living in New Jersey. Annotation ©2015 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 5

As serialized in the New Yorker, a roiling, behind-the-scenes look at the high-pressure race to turn around Newark’s failing schools, with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Governor Chris Christie, and Senator Cory Booker in eyebrow-raising leading roles

Review by Publisher Summary 6

As serialized in the New Yorker, a roiling, behind-the-scenes look at the high-pressure race to turn around Newark's failing schools, with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Governor Chris Christie, and Senator Cory Booker in eyebrow-raising leading roles

Review by Publisher Summary 7

A New York Times BestsellerMark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools. They got an education.When Mark Zuckerberg announced to a cheering Oprah audience his $100 million pledge to transform the downtrodden schools of Newark, New Jersey, then mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie were beside him, vowing to help make Newark 'a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.' But their plans soon ran into the city's seasoned education players, fierce protectors of their billion-dollar-a-year system. It's a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark's children.  Dale Russakoff delivers a riveting drama of our times, encompassing the rise of celebrity politics, big philanthropy, extreme economic inequality, the charter school movement, and the struggles and triumphs of schools in one of the nation's poorest cities. As Cory Booker navigates between his status as 'rock star mayor' on Oprah's stage and object of considerable distrust at home, the tumultuous changes planned by reformers and their highly paid consultants spark a fiery grass-roots opposition stoked by local politicians and union leaders.  The growth of charters forces the hand of Newark's school superintendent Cami Anderson, who closes, consolidates, or redesigns more than a third of the city's schools'a scenario on the horizon for many urban districts across America.  Russakoff provides a close-up view of twenty-six-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and his wife as they decide to give the immense sum of money to Newark and then experience an education of their own amid the fallout of the reforms. Most moving are Russakoff's portraits from inside classrooms, as homegrown teachers and principals battle heroically to reach students damaged by extreme poverty and violence. The Prize is an absorbing portrait of a titanic struggle, indispensable for anyone who cares about the future of public education and the nation's children. 

Review by Publisher Summary 8

A New York Times BestsellerMark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools. They got an education.When Mark Zuckerberg announced to a cheering Oprah audience his $100 million pledge to transform the downtrodden schools of Newark, New Jersey, then mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie were beside him, vowing to help make Newark “a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.” But their plans soon ran into the city’s seasoned education players, fierce protectors of their billion-dollar-a-year system. It’s a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark’s children.  Dale Russakoff delivers a riveting drama of our times, encompassing the rise of celebrity politics, big philanthropy, extreme economic inequality, the charter school movement, and the struggles and triumphs of schools in one of the nation’s poorest cities. As Cory Booker navigates between his status as “rock star mayor” on Oprah’s stage and object of considerable distrust at home, the tumultuous changes planned by reformers and their highly paid consultants spark a fiery grass-roots opposition stoked by local politicians and union leaders.  The growth of charters forces the hand of Newark’s school superintendent Cami Anderson, who closes, consolidates, or redesigns more than a third of the city’s schools—a scenario on the horizon for many urban districts across America.  Russakoff provides a close-up view of twenty-six-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and his wife as they decide to give the immense sum of money to Newark and then experience an education of their own amid the fallout of the reforms. Most moving are Russakoff’s portraits from inside classrooms, as homegrown teachers and principals battle heroically to reach students damaged by extreme poverty and violence. The Prize is an absorbing portrait of a titanic struggle, indispensable for anyone who cares about the future of public education and the nation’s children.