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Book Review: The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve by Peg Tyre

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Education is a volatile topic in America. Most people share strong opinions about it, and understandably so, since so much is seen to ride in the balance — reading and mathematical know-how — to last a lifetime, eventual college degrees, and career paths. Children, now more than ever, are placed under a microscope with the belief that careful tending and nurturing supports attendance at top-notch colleges one day.

Schools are not founded or run equally, but there are so many choices out there to sift through! Hazy, conflicting data, sensationalized news articles, attacks against teacher unions, standardized test scores, varying curricula models, and controversial legislation further confuse the school selection process. How does one choose the “best” school for their child? Does such a thing exist? Parents of all backgrounds and credentials struggle to find the answer, but a manual doesn’t exist. Yet Peg Tyre’s new work, The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve, comes close.

Tyre, renowned education journalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Trouble with Boys, attempts to address current, key issues plaguing America’s educational system. Her book also clearly presents information to consider before enrolling children in a particular school over another. Education entails complex, daunting, emotion-laden issues, but Tyre tackles this difficult topic with careful thought, thorough research, and comprehensible ease. The content layout is smooth and easily flows from one chapter to the next. There is a helpful summary at the end of each chapter as well. The Good School covers a wide breadth of information in a digestible, comfortably sized format.

I am a K-college professional and personally know many hard working and well-meaning teachers and administrators. Our jobs are not easy, but often scrutinized. In this highly polarized era, I felt wary of the book, but drawn to seeing the primary issues from another angle. I feared The Good School would unfairly and treacherously paint educators in a negative light. However, I was comforted by Tyre’s relatively neutral, balanced view. She does not blame or demonize our professions at the very least, but puts any precarious issues into context of political pressures and possible flaws needing improvement, such as inadequate professional development opportunities for teachers, outdated state mandates, and no supervision.

The book could have touched upon several topics in greater depth, like support services personnel (counselors, social workers, the socioemotional folks in my arena) or guidance models (ASCA’s National Model), and advocating for children with special needs through a general overview of IEPs and 504 Plans.

Tyre manages to impressively halt possible parent picket lines, but still raises poignant questions, holding educators at all levels accountable for providing quality, evidence-based programs to their pupils. The Good School offers realistic expectations for each party and empathizes with both sectors in a compassionate, yet professional way. While there is no idyllic school that meets all students’ needs, there are certain characteristics to look for and inquire about when on a tour beyond asking about last year’s college acceptance letters.

All schools, whether they are public, charters, private, parochial, homeschools, or magnet programs can be “good,” but Tyre challenges parents to help them improve and for readers to also respect educators’ profund and difficult role in the process. Ultimately, the takeaway suggests that both must work together for the benefit of the students. Parents must dig deeper than surface level statistics, and educators must strive to care about creating an atmosphere of support and meaningful accountability beyond producing passing test score grades.

The Good School is highly recommended to parents, administrators, educators, and students pursuing bachelor and graduate degrees in education-related fields. Read more about The Good School from the publisher, Henry Holt and Co. and visit Peg Tyre’s website, PegTyre.com.  Fans of this work can also “like” The Good School on Facebook.

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  • The best way to handle a child’s education is by encouraging him/her to read and visit the library often. There is no better way.

    In addition, students should do assigned homeworks faithfully and on time. Parents should review and sign homework and attend parent/teacher sessions.

    Independent research is another condition precedent for a good education. A child can learn virtually anywhere once these basic disciplines are internalized.

    Ample rest each night is critical as well. Always visit the school your child will attend and talk
    with both parents and students there.

  • This is a great book on picking the right schools for kids, but it’s a shame there’s no discussion of the food system and school lunches – this is a huge issue for our children!