Sara Mosle reviews the book on Slate:
In Tough’s account, the elementary school seems destined for genuine success. Many of its students (or their parents) have been part of the Zone’s outreach programs for years and thus are able to build within school on the gains they have already begun to achieve outside it. Thanks to the Zone, these families have enjoyed everything from better health care and parenting classes to summer programs and quality preschool. The elementary school’s superb principal and capable staff also help, but the clear implication of Tough’s portrait is that neither the school nor the social programs would entirely succeed without the other.
However, the middle school did poorly despite more funding and a longer school day.
Impatient to help a broader swath of students, he launches his middle school too soon for it to serve kids who have risen in his service-rich system or who have graduated from the Zone’s own elementary school. Discipline at the junior high becomes a constant problem. While many students are highly motivated and high-achieving, a stubborn core remains disaffected and alienated from the school’s mission.
By book’s end, Canada has decided to stop recruiting new middle school students and canceled plans for a high school. Mosle contrasts the middle-school’s failure with the success of KIPP middle schools, saying that KIPP enrolls more motivated students from stronger families while Harlem Children’s Zone takes everyone, including the children of very dysfunctional parents. It will take more time to see if the intensive social services offered in the zone can change the fate of its children.
Paul Tough is blogging on Slate this month at Schoolhouse Rock. Check out his pay on how we pay teachers.