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Book Review: Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story by Ember Reichgott Junge

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Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story by Ember Reichgott Junge was fascinating for me, partly because of my interest in education, and also because I spent several years in the charter school system as a teacher and school administrator. I really enjoyed learning about how it all got started and the tremendous effort put forth by so many people, including the author of this book, to make the charter school movement come to pass.

Ember Reichgott Junge covers everything in this book. She details the origins of chartered schools, the process of legislation and the all the compromises involved with that process, the teacher unions and the effect they had on the process, the many committees needed to create it all, and the sheer grit of the author and so many others involved. I had always assumed that creating legislation was a difficult and time-consuming process, but I had no idea just how complex it is.

One of my favorite quotes in the book is from Sy Fliegel, deputy superintendent of District 4 of New York City public schools. He said, “Don’t ask too much permission. That makes others take responsibility. If you want to do something different, they will be reluctant to take that risk. So they are likely to say no. Just do it. If it works, you can give them the credit.” Fliegel was instrumental in the significant positive changes made in the East Harlem public schools. He knew that everyone had to be involved, including administrators, teachers, parents and students, in order to have lasting and powerful changes. I witnessed this first hand as an educator and wholeheartedly believe in input from everyone involved to help each person feel valued in the process and offer an increased commitment.

I highly recommend Zero Chance of Passage  to any educator interested in learning about the history of chartered schools as well as educators wanting to see how positive change happens through legislation. I was impressed with all the work that went into the charter school movement and am grateful for people like Ember Reichgott Junge, who didn’t quit when she was faced with so much adversity.

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About Christine Watson