Cover image for Choosing excellence : "good enough" schools are not good enough
Choosing excellence : "good enough" schools are not good enough
Merrow, John.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xv, 207 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
LB1025.3 .M49 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
LB1025.3 .M49 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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How do you evaluate a school? Today parents and teachers lean on standardized test scores - along with image, rumor, and reputation - to make vital decisions. However, a single number is inevitably misleading. Author John Merrow, host of PBS's premier documentary series on youth and learning, The Merrow Report, delves into the problem of school evaluation. He shows that there are really only three kinds of schools: bad, good enough, and excellent. Good enough is the kind of school that most people settle for, schools people want to believe are okay. Each of the chapters in Choosing Excellence explores some aspect of schooling: safety, academics, values, technology, and so on. He spotlights excellent practices and strategies, concluding each chapter with a list of evidence for visitors to look for.

Author Notes

John Merrow is Executive Producer/Host & President of Learning Matters, Inc. He is a former high school & college teacher with a doctorate from Harvard. Merrow spent five years as Education Correspondent for "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" on PBS & two years at The Learning Channel. Merrow lives in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This outstanding assessment of the current state of the nation's schools is the culmination of Merrow's 25 years as an education reporter. Based on "School Sleuth: The Case of an Excellent School," a program for his PBS series The Merrow Report (which also airs on NPR), this book explores "good enough" schools, the ones that "most people settle for: schools everyone wants to believe are okay even though, deep down, they know better." Merrow aims here to help parents and others who are "determined to push and pull the system beyond `good enough.'" To that end, he examines various aspects of schooling from testing and homework to safety, values and technology drawing on years of school visits and interviews. Merrow weighs in on the current infatuation with "machine-scored" tests; teacher burnout ("we train teachers poorly and then treat them badly and so they leave in droves") and how it can be prevented; charter schools ("buyer beware"); the explosive growth of ADD ("a dubious diagnosis"); bloated administrative bureaucracy and much more. Writing lucidly throughout, he keeps his primary audience parents clearly in mind, offering, at the end of each chapter, helpful checklists for evaluating prospective schools (e.g., "Are papers marked up with thoughtful comments?"; "How serious is the school about art and music programs?"). Practical, forthright and engaging, Merrow's book should be required reading for every parent of a school-age child and for anyone who wants to see public education move beyond "good enough." (Apr.) Forecast: Since most children in America attend "good enough" schools, this book's potential market is enormous, and the author's high profile will help. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

No pre-service teacher should consider his or her professional education complete if it does not include regular viewings of The Merrow Report the documentary series now airing on PBS and National Public Radio. Building on research completed for a recent episode of that series, Merrow here provides a thoughtful discussion of "excellence in education." While highlighting issues of current concern, e.g., high-stakes testing, safe schools, and the place of technology in the curriculum, the author also provides an overview of the "best practices" in education. He shows the reader how to ask substantive questions about any school with which he or she might become involved (whether as a student, teacher, parent, or community member). Drawing on his writing skills, his experience as a teacher and reporter, and his familiarity with leading scholars and practitioners in the field, Merrow has crafted a volume containing lessons that can be put to good use by virtually anyone interested in our schools. Highly recommended for all libraries. Scott Walter Head, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xii
Prefacep. xiii
1 Introductionp. 1
2 Look, Listen, and Askp. 9
3 Testing, Assessment, and Excellencep. 27
4 Technology and Excellencep. 51
5 The "Rushed, Crunched, and Isolated" World of Teachersp. 73
6 Safety and Excellencep. 93
7 Homework and Home Learningp. 105
8 Our Kids Are Not the Problemp. 115
9 Values and Excellencep. 127
10 Charter Schools--Buyer Bewarep. 139
11 What's Special About Special Education?p. 159
12 "Don't Smile Until Christmas" and Other Clichesp. 171
Epilogue: "and in Conclusion ..."p. 181
Notesp. 187
About the Authorp. 207