In the first 2/3 of the book, Russell explains why he writes about this issue as well as a survey he created for urban educators and high school students (and the results) and then eight systemic failures in the schools. The last third of the book is the solutions--there's not just one as he points out. It's not JUST the teachers, or ONLY parents, or THE administrators. The pages are adorned with illustrations from a tenth grade student, Jessica Fitzpatrick, who took Russell's stick figures and created cartoon-like drawings to capture his points.
So what are some of these systemic failures that Russell sees from his own experiences and from studying the surveys? Here's just a sampling of his list: unqualified administrators, rampant cronyism, inclusion classes, special education hijacked by parents, burned out teachers, and teacher unions. Although you may or may not agree with each of his points, his passion for getting to the root of the problem and helping teenagers is all over these pages. One of his main points is right now, this is what is going on in our schools, and we are failing our kids. Shouldn't we shake things up a bit, change things around, to reach more teens and bring them success? This book makes me want to shout from the mountaintop... Yes!
His solutions may also be controversial to some, but these are ideas you will see on blogs and in the news. Again, he is saying, "We need to do this. We need to change. Here's how we start." What I love is that he's not just pointing out the problem, and he's not targeting any one group as being wrong. His solutions range from fixing trust and integrity issues within the walls of the schools to allowing children to receive failing grades so they know they need to try harder, from focused professional development plans for teachers to make-up days for absences or truancy and more.
If you believe in education and want to help urban students succeed, Lifting the Curtain is a book for you to check out. All educators would benefit from reading it, regardless of where or whom they teach. Mr. Russell is brave to tackle this emotional and tough topic, and he does so with grace and passion.
Find out more about the book by visiting www.liftingthecurtain.com, the Lifting the Curtain blog, and the book's Facebook page.
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