Grading a School’s First Year

Hard Lessons: The Promise of an Inner City Charters School<br> By Jonathan Schorr | Ballantine Books

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Vividly rendered heroes and villains, gripping plot twists, and a nail-biting climax are not what you’d expect from a case study of a charter school. But Jonathan Schorr’s account of the struggle to create and keep afloat the E.C. Reems Academy in Oakland, California, delivers just that. A former teacher and education reporter, Schorr tracked a coalition of frustrated parents, community activists, and a fledgling nonprofit as the group hung its hopes on a charter as an antidote to Oakland’s blighted public schools.

E.C. Reems rushed to open its doors in 1999, a mere five months after the Oakland School Board approved its charter, and became home to students “so achingly behind that they might have been runners wandering at the starting blocks long after the race had begun.”

To the delight of its critics, the school suffered through a difficult first year — including a threat to shut it down over mishandled paperwork — and failed to dramatically impact the students’ test scores. But it did survive. And while the academic progress of this school — and most of the nation’s 2,400 recently minted charter schools — remains in the too-soon-to-tell category, E.C. Reems has already succeeded in a less quantifiable sense. It is “welcoming and open,” he writes, a place “where parents say they have a voice.” What makes a school “good,” Schorr concludes, is measured not only by the test performances of its students, but by the ways in which it “makes communities and families stronger.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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