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Keeping the challenges of urban education in mind, McCloskey, who writes for the New York Times, monitors a year of studies at a Catholic high school in Harlem in his debut book, revealing the soaring cost of academically training young poor and non-Catholic black males for graduation and college. The subject of the yearlong investigation is Rice High School, with principal Orlando Gober, who keeps the street culture at bay while pursuing educational excellence and a high moral foundation. With the highest black student population in the regional diocese, Gober makes no excuses for how schools have failed: "parents and teachers made excuses, which crippled their willpower.... People have to be held responsible for what they do." It is illuminating to see the struggles and triumphs of a school day where students feud, teachers jockey for power, and administrative control must be maintained at all costs. Powerful, eloquent, candid, McCloskey's account should be required reading for those who seek to remedy the academic woes of our troubled urban schools. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.