The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test
Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
By Linda Nathan
(Beacon Press, Paperback, 9780807006153, 224pp.)
Publication Date: September 7, 2010
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The Boston Arts Academy comprises an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse student body, yet 94 percent of its graduates are accepted to college. Compare this with the average urban district rate of 50 percent. How do they do it? This remarkable success, writes Principal Linda Nathan, is in large part due to asking the right questions-questions all schools can consider, such as:
* How and why does a school develop a shared vision of what it stands for?
* What makes a great teacher, and how can a principal help good teachers improve?
* Why must schools talk openly about race and achievement, and what happens when they do?
With engaging honesty, Nathan gives readers a ring-side seat as faculty, parents, and the students themselves grapple with these questions, attempt to implement solutions, and evaluate the outcomes. Stories that are inspirational as well as heartbreaking reveal the missteps and failures-as well as the successes.
Nathan doesn't claim to have all the answers, but seeks to share her insights on schools that matter, teachers who inspire, and students who achieve.
Award-winning educator Linda Nathan founded the Boston Arts Academy in 1998. She consults and speaks on educational issues nationally and internationally, and teaches a graduate course at Harvard on building democratic schools. Nathan lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“For educators or anyone interested in city schools, this is essential, provocative reading.”
—Chuck Leddy, Boston Globe
“This fascinating book takes you inside the mind of a uniquely gifted urban school leader and reveals the secrets that help her propel her disadvantaged students toward college: community, transparency, a profound understanding of adolescents, and, especially, moral courage. Reading The Hardest Questions . . . is like shadowing a principal for a year. I recommend it to every teacher or administrator who wants to make a difference in the lives of inner-city children.”
—Michael Thompson, author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys
“Using rich and vivid examples, presented with passion and candor, Linda Nathan shows what it really means to go ‘back to basics’ in American urban education.”
—Howard Gardner, author of Multiple Intelligences
“Linda Nathan and her remarkable colleagues . . . provide argument and evidence, theory and action plan, utopian hope and practical road map to the necessary project of reinventing America’s schools.”
—William Ayers, author of To Teach and A Kind and Just Parent
“Linda Nathan’s wonderful account of piloting the Boston Arts Academy is personal, anecdotal, and yet focused on the critical Big Questions. Through stories of how these questions play out in hallways and classrooms, Nathan articulates a vision of how urban schools can flourish.””
—Deborah Meier, author of The Power of Their Ideas