The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test
Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
By Linda Nathan
(Beacon Press, Hardcover, 9780807032749, 224pp.)
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
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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.
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'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. I want to send this book to everyone who should be speaking up about new directions in public education."—Deborah Meier, The Power of Their Ideas
"Linda Nathan takes a courageous look at our deteriorating educational system and makes a case for reaching each student on his or her own terms using an arts-based curriculum that unlocks the creative thinking and capacity for self-expression that such an approach nurtures. The results are thought-provoking and inspiring."—Keith Lockhart, Conductor, Boston Pops Orchestra
"If you could start from scratch, if you could do any wild or crazy thing your imagination suggests, what kind of school would you invent for our children? It's a bold and propulsive and liberating question that has powered the work of the Boston Arts Academy for over a decade. 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 re-inventing America's schools."—William Ayers, author of To Teach and A Kind and Just Parent
"With heart, compassion, and a magnifying glass, Linda Nathan takes us into the world of an urban high school, with its daily trials, defeats, joys, and victories. This book does not shy away from raising questions, encouraging self-reflection, and ultimately opening minds."—Carol R. Johnson, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools
"This fascinating book takes you inside the mind of a uniquely gifted urban school leader and reveals the secrets that help her propel her 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
"Linda Nathan has written a remarkable book. Boston Arts Academy is an urban public high school just across the street from Fenway Park. So, I get to see, first hand, young people from every neighborhood in the city who greatly benefit from the approaches so clearly espoused by this innovative educator. With over 90% of graduates consistently going on to college (many the first in their families to do so), the results speak for themselves."—Larry Lucchino, owner of Red Sox, public school graduate