Searching for Hope: Life at a Failing School in the Heart of America

Overview

Searching for Hope is a gripping account of life in a once-great high school in a rough Indianapolis neighborhood. Granted unfiltered access to Manual High throughout an entire school year, award-winning journalist Matthew Tully tells the complex story of the everyday drama, failures, and triumphs in one of the nation’s many troubled urban public high schools.
He walks readers into classrooms, offices, and hallways, painting a vivid picture of the profound academic problems, ...

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Searching for Hope: Life at a Failing School in the Heart of America

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Overview

Searching for Hope is a gripping account of life in a once-great high school in a rough Indianapolis neighborhood. Granted unfiltered access to Manual High throughout an entire school year, award-winning journalist Matthew Tully tells the complex story of the everyday drama, failures, and triumphs in one of the nation’s many troubled urban public high schools.
He walks readers into classrooms, offices, and hallways, painting a vivid picture of the profound academic problems, deep frustrations, and apathy that absorb and sometimes consume students,
teachers, and administrators. Yet this intimate view also reveals the hopes, dreams, and untapped talents of some amazing individuals. Providing insights into the challenges confronting those who seek to improve the quality of America’s schools, Tully argues that school leaders and policy makers must rally communities to heartfelt engagement with their schools if the crippling social and economic threats to cities such as Indianapolis are to be averted.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this evocative and sensitive account, Indianapolis Star journalist Tully investigates Emmerich Manual High, an Indianapolis school facing a state takeover, debilitating budget cuts, and the "apathy, low expectations, and assembly-line mentality" often associated with urban schools. Tully unblinkingly describes drug deals, violence, the desperation of pregnant students, absent and overwhelmed parents, bored teachers, and ineffectual (if well intentioned) leadership. He also offers honest moments of hope, as the book's title promises: college dreams are fulfilled; shattered families are reunited; special education students surpass all expectations; teenagers finally taste triumph at a choir concert and, briefly, on the football field; and a community comes alive with unexpected generosity. Despite self-conscious references to "fairytale endings" and Hollywood films that simplify the complexities of urban education, Tully occasionally relies on simplified images of "typical American kids." Though he claims that there is "no quick fix," he worships the hero-teacher whose energy and passion-reminiscent of pedagogical figures on the silver screen-can combat academic insouciance. However, Tully is "a journalist and not an education expert," and while the book offers no unfamiliar insight into the plight of urban schools, it does give a powerful, ultimately genuine voice to the complicated, imperfect individuals whose victories and hopes are often unreported. Photos.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Indianapolis Monthly

"[A]n even-more-compelling version of the saga Tully chronicled in his Manual Project." —Indianapolis Monthly

Jay Mathews

"A gritty, wonderfully honest investigation of life in an urban American high school in the 21st century. The despair, the apathy, the misplaced anger, the frustrations and fights for something better are all there. The school in Indianapolis where Tully spent so much time is close to what I have found in many big cities, but few reporters have gone as deep as Tully has." —Jay Mathews, Washington Post education columnist and author of Work Hard, Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America

Gerardo M. González

"Every reform-minded educator, parent, and politician should read this book. It will change the way they think about what's really needed to help every student in a struggling school achieve his or her full potential." —Gerardo M. González, Dean, School of Education, Indiana University Bloomington

Jonathan Plucker

"With a great mix of storytelling and analysis, Matthew Tully puts a human face on the statistics we’re bombarded with about the decline of education in our cities. In equal parts brutally honest and surprisingly uplifting, Searching for Hope... is required reading for anyone attempting to understand or address the problems of urban education in the United States." —Jonathan Plucker, Director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Indiana University Bloomington

From the Publisher
"[W]hile the book offers no unfamiliar insight into the plight of urban schools, it does give a powerful, ultimately genuine voice to the complicated, imperfect individuals whose victories and hopes are often unreported." —Publishers Weekly
Library Journal
Today Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis is but a shadow of the great institution it was a few decades ago. How does a school fall so far, and is there any hope that things will turn around? Tully (political columnist, Indianapolis Star), who wrote a series of weekly columns about that subject during the 2009–10 academic year, here expands those pieces into longer chapters that detail life in an urban high school. His guesses as to why Manual High is in such dire straits—apathy, inefficiency, and lack of strong, energetic, and independent leaders—are juxtaposed against stories of exceptional teachers, students who overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, and dozens of other positive anecdotes. VERDICT The book does not propose concrete solutions to improve our educational system, but Tully's perspective as neither an insider nor a total outsider affords interesting insights. While not an essential purchase, this keen observation of teens at a troubled high school makes for fascinating reading. (Dare to finish with dry eyes the chapter about a holiday concert.)—Terry A. Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253005939
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 2/23/2012
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Tully is the political columnist for the Indianapolis Star. His columns on public schools have helped drive debate over education reform in Indiana. Tully’s commentary has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Education Week, and he has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and numerous other national media outlets. He was named Indiana Journalist of the Year in 2008 and won the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism in 2010.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Prologue
1 Why are you here?
2 I never thought he would be a dandelion
3 Can you believe this?
4 We do a good job with the kids who show up
5 I hate this school
6 Go to class, Zach
7 We're not going to be average here
8 Where's the school spirit?
9 I don't like being called stupid
10 You have to crawl first
11 We're dropping out
12 I get hit all the time
13 A trend of low achievement
14 What's gonna happen, Mr.
Grismore?
15 Could you imagine if we filled the house?
16 It feels like I'm a somebody
17 I used to be bad
18 I knew I didn't want that
19 There's nobody that can't do something
20 It never stops around here
21 I like to solve problems
22 I'm the kid who doesn't exist
23 Trouble follows me
24 I'm willing to run these schools
25 Now I know why I'm tall
26 In honor of our schoolmates
27 Wow, this is amazing
28 You are survivors

Indiana University Press

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 21, 2012

    Embedded in Indy

    If you had lived in Indianapolis after WWII expectations for what this metropolitan area has become would have been nonexistent. The pace of life was slow. Trolleys still ran on bricked streets. Schools were segregated by neighborhood. This is a tale of research and hope.

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