In an era when it is increasingly easy to criticize America’s education system, journalist Larry Martz’s in-depth investigation and enthusiastic presentation of a baker’s dozen school success stories is like a breath of chalk-free air.
Spurning macrocosmic reform urged by big-mouthed bureaucrats and despairing of increased federal and state support, the heroes of these vignettes engage in what Martz calls the “small bite” concept — instituting simple microcosmic innovations that have a powerfully positive impact on student learning and life.
Among the programs Martz profiles here are the replacement of bonehead English with a meaningful skills tutorial in suburban St. Louis; the Valued Youth Partnership to fight the high dropout rate among young Hispanics in San Antonio; a peer counselor program for troubled youth in Moorehead, Minnesota; and a scholarship program in Cleveland for at-risk students who would not normally even consider higher education.
Martz not only describes how these programs got started and what they do, he also outlines the key factors for their success, making this not only a description of existing programs but in many ways a call-to-action and a how-to book for educators, parents, and community leaders looking for ways to save both their students and their schools from failure.
The book also tells a number of very human stories, for it is not merely a concept that makes a project succeed, but often one or two charismatic, hard-headed, and devoted workaholics who galvanize all those around them. As Martz suggests, there are such people in every community. Perhaps MAKING SCHOOLS BETTER will show them how to transform their frustration into fruitful action.