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Book Review: Who’s in Charge?: An Educational Outlook for All by Donna Harla

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Who’s in Charge?: An Educational Outlook for All examines the state of America’s school system and suggests ways to improve its shortcomings. Author Donna Harla is a highly credentialed educator who has experienced the classroom setting firsthand. One of her main arguments is that educators–not politicians–should have the greatest say in how schools should be run. She cites the “No Child Left Behind Act” as well as the reliance on the use of standardized tests to measure learning (tests, which by the way, are made by non-educators) as evidence that politicians are out of touch with the challenges the educational system faces today. She provides an extensive literature review for readers to investigate further topics that are of interest to them.

Harla sings the praises of the “Parent Collaboration Professional Learning Community,” which is a group that involves parents, teachers and students. Its purpose is to meet one day per week to share suggestions and build trust among the participants. While the idea is good, the meetings were scheduled during the school day and when most parents would be working. In today’s economy, very few employees would be allowed time off every week, thereby making the program less effective. Also, the students would be missing valuable class time if they attended such meetings.

In my opinion, the author puts too much blame for the lack of a child’s success on the parent. At some point, the student needs to be held more accountable. The examples provided in this book deal mostly with middle school students. I found it hard to believe that at this age students would still need to be taught how to find answers to questions in their textbooks. Then they discussed it in small groups. Finally, the class went over the correct answers together. Spending that much time on one eight-question quiz exemplifies to me the real reason students are not learning. They are not being forced to meet very high expectations.

The target audience for Who’s in Charge?: An Educational Outlook for All by Donna Harla is mainly educators, but parents may also benefit. It offers insights into many problems the school system faces including: poverty, social and racial diversity, and parent apathy. While I do not agree with some of the author’s ideas for improvements, I respect her for taking a stand and trying to do something positive to change the sorry state of American education.

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