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

Overview

"As a proud graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for the importance of exam schools in our educational system, and this book arrives in the nick of time. Finn and Hockett pull back the veil of mystery surrounding these schools to show us where they've succeeded, where they've fallen short, and what we can learn from these remarkable institutions to improve the education of all Americans."—Andrew Lo, Massachusetts Institute of ...

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

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Overview

"As a proud graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for the importance of exam schools in our educational system, and this book arrives in the nick of time. Finn and Hockett pull back the veil of mystery surrounding these schools to show us where they've succeeded, where they've fallen short, and what we can learn from these remarkable institutions to improve the education of all Americans."—Andrew Lo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Looking at America's most selective public high schools, Exam Schools determines what ingredients are necessary for developing an outstanding secondary school in a public context. Giving us reasons to believe that education reform is possible, this illuminating book will restore optimism, help us find a direction, and chart our course. Anyone who cares about American education should read it."—Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, author of Big Man on Campus: A University President Speaks Out on Higher Education

"This engaging book investigates the important but woefully understudied phenomenon of academically selective public high schools in the United States. Given that there is virtually no systematic research available on this topic, Exam Schools fills a critical gap."—Martin West, Harvard University

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691156675
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/16/2012
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,401,970
  • 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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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I: The Big Picture 5
Chapter 1: History and Context 7
Chapter 2: Searching for Needles in the High School Haystack 22
Chapter 3: Exploring a New Constellation 28

Part II: Inside the Schools 57
Introduction 59
Chapter 4: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, IL 61
Chapter 5: School Without Walls, Washington, D.C. 71
Chapter 6: Central High School Magnet Career Academy, Louisville, KY 79
Chapter 7: Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin, TX 88
Chapter 8: Jones College Prep, Chicago, IL 96
Chapter 9: Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans, LA 106
Chapter 10: Townsend Harris High School, Queens, NY 114
Chapter 11: Pine View School for the Gifted, Osprey, FL 122
Chapter 12: Oxford Academy, Cypress, CA 131
Chapter 13: Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, NJ 140
Chapter 14: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Annandale, VA 149
Chapter 15: Similarities and Differences 159

Part III: Summing Up 167
Chapter 16: Dilemmas and Challenges 169
Chapter 17: Conclusions 188

Appendix I: Selection Process and School List 203
Appendix II: Survey Questions 216
Notes 229
Index 249

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