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The first book to tell the story of the Advanced Placement program, the gold standard for academic rigor in American high schools

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.

What is the best education for exceptionally able and high-achieving youngsters? Can the United States strengthen its future intellectual leadership, economic vitality, and scientific prowess without sacrificing equal opportunity? There are no easy answers but, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett show, for more than 100,000 students each year, the solution is to enroll in an academically selective public high school. Exam Schools is the first-ever close-up look at this small, sometimes controversial, yet crucial segment of American public education. This groundbreaking book discusses how these schools work--and their critical role in nurturing the country's brightest students.

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.

According to leading education analyst Chester Finn, a paradox lies at the heart of our educational trouble. While Americans commonly acknowledge that public schools in general are a disaster, polls consistently show that most parents, teachers, and administrators think their local schools and their own children are doing just fine. The implications of this self-congratulation are profound. For if people believe their own schools and children are succeeding, why should they feel compelled to change things? Yet, if we don't, we will continue to watch the destruction of a system that already lacks accountability and quality control, and is beset by a teaching profession compromised by bad ideas, fads, buck-passing, dubious theories, and stodgy practices.

Fin proposes radical changes which he insists must be championed by all Americans if this atrophy is to be reversed. First and most importantly, he calls on us to reorganize education in relation to the results we want from it. This means establishing a clearcut standard of intellectual achievement that we will oblige all of our schools to enforce and our children to meet. To define this standard, we will need to rebuild instruction around, a national curriculum of core subjects - history, science, geography, math, literature and writing. And we must demand a more detailed flow of useful information, including reliable testing, about how our children are performing in relation to this standard.

Finn calls on us to give our children as much time, as many options, and as broad an array of resources as possible. As he points out, learning can take place as easily in July as it does in march, as easily in a museum as it does in a classroom. And if parents have choices in deciding which schools and programs best fit the needs of students, they will have an added incentive in helping their children succeed. He urges us to revitalize the means of delivering education from the bottom up, by vesting as much authority as possible with educators in each individual school and holding them accountable for their performance.

For Finn, the implementation of these radical measures is essential to produce not only a knowledgeable twenty-first century work force that will keep our nation competitive, but an informed and reasoning citizenry capable of participating fully in a democracy. Challenging and candid, this book will point the way for all those insisting on the best that our schools can offer.
Few people have been more involved in shaping postwar U.S. education reforms--or dissented from some of them more effectively--than Chester Finn. Assistant secretary of education under Ronald Reagan, and an aide to politicians as different as Richard Nixon and Daniel Moynihan, Finn has also been a high school teacher, an education professor, a prolific and best-selling writer, a think-tank analyst, a nonprofit foundation president, and both a Democrat and Republican. This remarkably varied career has given him an extraordinary insider's view of every significant school-reform movement of the past four decades, from racial integration to No Child Left Behind. In Troublemaker, Finn has written a vivid history of postwar education reform that is also the personal story of one of the foremost players--and mavericks--in American education.

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.

If you care about the education of a child, you need this book. Comprehensive and easy to use, it will inform, empower, and encourage you.
Just as William J. Bennett's The Book of Virtues has helped millions of Americans teach young people about character, The Educated Child delivers what you need to take control. With coauthors Chester E. Finn, Jr., and John T. E. Cribb, Jr., former Secretary of Education Bennett provides the indispensable guide.
Championing a clear "back-to-basics" curriculum that will resonate with parents and teachers tired of fads and jargon, The Educated Child supplies an educational road map from earliest childhood to the threshold of high school. It gives parents hundreds of practical suggestions for helping each child succeed while showing what to look for in a good school and what to watch out for in a weak one.
The Educated Child places you squarely at the center of your young one's academic career and takes a no-nonsense view of your responsibilities. It empowers you as mothers and fathers, enabling you to reclaim what has been appropriated by "experts" and the education establishment. It out-lines questions you will want to ask, then explains the answers -- or non-answers -- you will be given. No longer will you feel powerless before the education "system." The tools and advice in this guide put the power where it belongs -- in the hands of those who know and love their children best.
Using excerpts from E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge Sequence, The Educated Child sets forth a state-of-the art curriculum from kindergarten through eighth grade that you can use to monitor what is and isn't being taught in your school. It outlines how you can help teachers ensure that your child masters the most important skills and knowledge. It takes on today's education controversies from phonics to school choice, from outcomes-based education to teaching values, from the education of gifted children to the needs of the disabled. Because much of a youngster's education takes place outside the school, The Educated Child also distills the essential information you need to prepare children for kindergarten and explains to the parents of older students how to deal with such challenges as television, drugs, and sex.
If you seek high standards and solid, time-tested content for the child you care so much about, if you want the unvarnished truth about what parents and schools must do, The Educated Child is the one book you need on your shelf.
Can charter schools save public education? This radical question has unleashed a flood of opinions from Americans struggling with the contentious challenges of education reform. There has been plenty of heat over charter schools and their implications, but, until now, not much light. This important new book supplies plenty of illumination.

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.

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