The Advanced Placement program stands as the foremost source of college-level academics for millions of high school students in the United States and beyond. More than 22,000 schools now participate in it, across nearly forty subjects, from Latin and art to calculus and computer science. Yet remarkably little has been known about how this nongovernmental program became one of the greatest success stories in K–12 education—until now. In Learning in the Fast Lane, Chester Finn and Andrew Scanlan, two of the country's most respected education analysts, offer a groundbreaking account of one of the most important educational initiatives of our time.
Learning in the Fast Lane traces the story of AP from its mid-twentieth-century origins as a niche benefit for privileged students to its emergence as a springboard to college for high schoolers nationwide, including hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged youth. Today, AP not only opens new intellectual horizons for smart teenagers, but also strengthens school ratings, attracts topflight teachers, and draws support from philanthropists, reformers, and policymakers. At the same time, it faces numerous challenges, including rival programs, curriculum wars, charges of elitism, the misgivings of influential universities, and the difficulty of infusing rigor into schools that lack it. In today's polarized climate, can AP maintain its lofty standards and surmount the problems that have sunk so many other bold education ventures?
Richly documented and thoroughly accessible, Learning in the Fast Lane is a must-read for anyone with a stake in the American school system.
The 165 schools identified by Finn and Hockett are located in thirty states, plus the District of Columbia. While some are world renowned, such as Boston Latin and Bronx Science, others are known only in their own communities. The authors survey the schools on issues ranging from admissions and student diversity to teacher selection. They probe sources of political support, curriculum, instructional styles, educational effectiveness, and institutional autonomy. Some of their findings are surprising: Los Angeles, for example, has no "exam schools" while New York City has dozens. Asian-American students are overrepresented--but so are African-American pupils. Culminating with in-depth profiles of eleven exam schools and thoughtful reflection on policy implications, Finn and Hockett ultimately consider whether the country would be better off with more such schools.
At a time of keen attention to the faltering education system, Exam Schools sheds positive light on a group of schools that could well provide a transformative roadmap for many of America's children.
Finn tells how his experiences have shaped his changing views of the three major strands of postwar school reform: standards-driven, choice-driven, and profession-driven. Of the three, Finn now believes that a combination of choice and standards has the greatest potential, but he favors this approach more on pragmatic than ideological grounds, arguing that parents should be given more options at the same time that schools are allowed more flexibility and held to higher performance norms. He also explains why education reforms of all kinds are so difficult to implement, and he draws valuable lessons from their frequent failure.
Clear-eyed yet optimistic, Finn ultimately gives grounds for hope that the best of today's bold initiatives--from charter schools to technology to makeovers of school-system governance--are finally beginning to make a difference.
Charter schools--independently operated public schools of choice--have existed in the United States only since 1992, yet there are already over 1,500 of them. How are they doing? Here prominent education analysts Chester Finn, Bruno Manno, and Gregg Vanourek offer the richest data available on the successes and failures of this exciting but controversial approach to education reform. After studying one hundred schools, interviewing hundreds of participants, surveying thousands more, and analyzing the most current data, they have compiled today's most authoritative, comprehensive explanation and appraisal of the charter phenomenon. Fact-filled, clear-eyed, and hard-hitting, this is the book for anyone concerned about public education and interested in the role of charter schools in its renewal.
Can charter schools boost student achievement, drive educational innovation, and develop a new model of accountability for public schools? Where did the idea of charter schools come from? What would the future hold if this phenomenon spreads? These are some of the questions that this book answers. It addresses pupil performance, enrollment patterns, school start-up problems, charges of inequity, and smoldering political battles. It features close-up looks at five real--and very different--charter schools and two school districts that have been deeply affected by the charter movement, including their setbacks and triumphs. After outlining a new model of education accountability and describing how charter schools often lead to community renewal, the authors take the reader on an imaginary tour of a charter-based school system.
Charter schools are the most vibrant force in education today. This book suggests that their legacy will consist not only of helping millions of families obtain a better education for their children but also in renewing American public education itself.