A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America
By Donna Foote
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307278234, 352pp.)
Publication Date: March 10, 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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When Locke High School opened its doors in 1967, the residents of Watts celebrated it as a sign of the changes promised by Los Angeles. But four decades later, first-year Teach for America recruits Rachelle, Phillip, Hrag, and Taylor are greeted by a school that looks more like a prison, with bars, padlocks, and chains all over.
With little training and experience, these four will be asked to produce academic gains in students who are among the most disadvantaged in the country. Relentless Pursuit lays bare the experiences of these four teachers to evaluate the strengths and peculiarities of Teach for America and a social reality that has become inescapable.
Donna Foote is a freelance journalist and former Newsweek correspondent. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband and fourteen-year-old son.
“Richly detailed. . . . Her book is the most interesting account of inner-city high school life in many years and only whets my appetite for more. —The Washington Post Book World“A vivid parallel account of the challenges these new teachers face and the challenges of building a movement for change within education. . . . This could be the book that moves Teach for America firmly into the broader national consciousness.” —New York Post “Here is skilled, attentive documentary work become an instrument for the reader’s moral and social reflection — educational idealism, its achievements and its tribulations as they envelop the lives of schoolchildren, and their longtime teachers, their newly arrived ones: the effort to ‘teach for America’ become a social, psychological lesson all its own.”—Robert Coles, author of Children of Crisis “This important book is also a gripping read. From the first page, when Locke High School is locked down, Foote's compelling and inspiring characters draw us into the dizzying challenge of trying save the next generation and redeem the promise of America. Relentless Pursuit is not just for anyone who cares about poor kids and education. It's for anyone who cares about the future of the country."—Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope"This book beautifully conveys the spirit, dedication and heroism of Teach For America and shows why it is such a valuable experience both for its corps members and their students."—Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life“I will put this simply — this is one of the most profound books I have ever read. Donna Foote’s Relentless Pursuit will make you cringe. It will make you cry. It will make you cheer. Most important, it gives proof that education, under conditions that should make every American ashamed, can work with a beauty beyond all imagination. Just magnificent and inspiring.”—Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City“Foote’s account couldn’t be better-timed. Her inside view of TFA’s self-reinvention…demonstrates what relentless reflection on, and revision of, a mission and its methods can accomplish. The lessons on display are especially important for an era in which a ruthless focus on student outcomes risks overlooking a key ingredient of that enterprise: inputs for teachers, who need all the help they can get as they face an educational culture of new pressures and expectations, along with age-old challenges….Foote’s fine-grained account of Locke supplies the larger context and a corrective.”—Sara Mosle, Slate