Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools

Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools

by Chester E. Finn, Jessica A. Hockett
     
 

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What is the best education for exceptionally able and high-achieving youngsters? Can the United States strengthen its future intellectual leadership, economic vitality, and scientific prowess without sacrificing equal opportunity? There are no easy answers but, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett show, for more than 100,000 students each year, the solution is to

Overview

What is the best education for exceptionally able and high-achieving youngsters? Can the United States strengthen its future intellectual leadership, economic vitality, and scientific prowess without sacrificing equal opportunity? There are no easy answers but, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett show, for more than 100,000 students each year, the solution is to enroll in an academically selective public high school. Exam Schools is the first-ever close-up look at this small, sometimes controversial, yet crucial segment of American public education. This groundbreaking book discusses how these schools work--and their critical role in nurturing the country's brightest students.

The 165 schools identified by Finn and Hockett are located in thirty states, plus the District of Columbia. While some are world renowned, such as Boston Latin and Bronx Science, others are known only in their own communities. The authors survey the schools on issues ranging from admissions and student diversity to teacher selection. They probe sources of political support, curriculum, instructional styles, educational effectiveness, and institutional autonomy. Some of their findings are surprising: Los Angeles, for example, has no "exam schools" while New York City has dozens. Asian-American students are overrepresented--but so are African-American pupils. Culminating with in-depth profiles of eleven exam schools and thoughtful reflection on policy implications, Finn and Hockett ultimately consider whether the country would be better off with more such schools.

At a time of keen attention to the faltering education system, Exam Schools sheds positive light on a group of schools that could well provide a transformative roadmap for many of America's children.

Editorial Reviews

Education Week
Could, and should . . . academically selective public high schools play a more expansive role in educating the nation's high-potential, high-achieving students[?] These are some of the questions that longtime education pundit Checker Finn, joined by educational consultant Jessica Hockett, set out to answer in their book.
— Erik Robelen
Washington Post
[E]ye-opening . . .
— Jay Mathews
National Association of Scholars
The subject is one of serious interest to colleges and universities because many of their best-prepared and motivated applicants come from these schools. These are schools and students college admissions officers and professors will want to know about.
— Peter Cohee
Wall Street Journal
As we try to make sure that no child gets left behind, are we keeping others from getting ahead? Or, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett put it in Exam Schools: 'As the country strives to . . . close its wide achievement gaps [and] repair its bad schools . . . is it also challenging its high achieving and highly motivated students?' This isn't an easy question to answer. . . . The information they do collect is helpful.
— Naomi Schaefer Riley
New Republic
As we strive to offer better educations to all students, Exam Schools takes the important first steps toward illuminating an option that may eventually have resonance for our public school system as a whole.
— Rachael Brown
Wall Street Journal - Naomi Schaefer Riley
As we try to make sure that no child gets left behind, are we keeping others from getting ahead? Or, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett put it in Exam Schools: 'As the country strives to . . . close its wide achievement gaps [and] repair its bad schools . . . is it also challenging its high achieving and highly motivated students?' This isn't an easy question to answer. . . . The information they do collect is helpful.
New Republic - Rachael Brown
As we strive to offer better educations to all students, Exam Schools takes the important first steps toward illuminating an option that may eventually have resonance for our public school system as a whole.
Education Week - Erik Robelen
Could, and should . . . academically selective public high schools play a more expansive role in educating the nation's high-potential, high-achieving students[?] These are some of the questions that longtime education pundit Checker Finn, joined by educational consultant Jessica Hockett, set out to answer in their book.
Washington Post - Jay Mathews
[E]ye-opening . . .
National Association of Scholars - Peter Cohee
The subject is one of serious interest to colleges and universities because many of their best-prepared and motivated applicants come from these schools. These are schools and students college admissions officers and professors will want to know about.
Washington Post - Robert J. Samuelson
[T]his book raised important new questions and illuminated largely unknown facts. . . . Finn and Hockett have done something rare in public policy debates: They've raised new issues.
Biz India - Nano Khilnani
If you are interested in giving your child or children a superior education, this book is a must-read.
From the Publisher

"As we try to make sure that no child gets left behind, are we keeping others from getting ahead? Or, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett put it in Exam Schools: 'As the country strives to . . . close its wide achievement gaps [and] repair its bad schools . . . is it also challenging its high achieving and highly motivated students?' This isn't an easy question to answer. . . . The information they do collect is helpful."--Naomi Schaefer Riley, Wall Street Journal

"As we strive to offer better educations to all students, Exam Schools takes the important first steps toward illuminating an option that may eventually have resonance for our public school system as a whole."--Rachael Brown, New Republic

"A cogent exploration of the struggle to balance equity and excellence in America's most academically selective public high schools. . . . A fact-driven, clear text that will be of interest to educators as well as parents of students at selective public high schools."--Kirkus Reviews

"Could, and should . . . academically selective public high schools play a more expansive role in educating the nation's high-potential, high-achieving students[?] These are some of the questions that longtime education pundit Checker Finn, joined by educational consultant Jessica Hockett, set out to answer in their book."--Erik Robelen, Education Week

"[E]ye-opening."--Jay Mathews, Washington Post

"The subject is one of serious interest to colleges and universities because many of their best-prepared and motivated applicants come from these schools. These are schools and students college admissions officers and professors will want to know about."--Peter Cohee, National Association of Scholars

"[T]his book raised important new questions and illuminated largely unknown facts. . . . Finn and Hockett have done something rare in public policy debates: They've raised new issues."--Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post

"If you are interested in giving your child or children a superior education, this book is a must-read."--Nano Khilnani, Biz India

Kirkus Reviews
A cogent exploration of the struggle to balance equity and excellence in America's most academically selective public high schools. Finn (Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut, 2009, etc.), former assistant U.S. secretary of education and a current fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and educational consultant Hockett focus on public, self-contained, college-preparatory high schools that have a competitive admissions process. Within those parameters, the authors found 165 that met their criteria, in 30 states plus the District of Columbia, as the country's most elite, out of more than 22,000 public high schools in the country. They surveyed these schools on a range of issues including teacher selection and the diversity of the student body. The authors visited 11 of the schools, observing classes and interviewing teachers and students, and they offer detailed profiles of each and examine the qualities (serious and purposeful learning environment, eager and talented pupils) and practices (low teacher turnover, "overwhelming advocacy from the parents of their students") they have in common. Instead of merely being schools chosen (or not) by parents and children, these public schools can select their students, which raises the incentives to meet their standards. Along with selectivity, Finn and Hockett examine thorny issues such as purposeful diversity and demographics, political support and the emphasis placed on exam scores. One fact of note: "Asian pupils are found in these selection schools at four times their share of the larger high school population." Throughout the book, the authors return to the question of whether the public-education system has "neglected to raise the ceiling" while struggling to lift the floor, looking closely at how schools can meet the needs of students at vastly different levels. A fact-driven, clear text that will be of interest to educators as well as parents of students at selective public high schools.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691156675
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
09/16/2012
Pages:
264
Sales rank:
1,340,767
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Chester E. Finn, Jr. is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. A former assistant U.S. secretary of education, he is the author of many books, including Charter Schools in Action and Troublemaker (both Princeton). Jessica A. Hockett is an education consultant specializing in differentiated instruction, curriculum design, and lesson study. She earned her doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Virginia.

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