The Failure of Education Reform & the Promise of Integration
28 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2012 Last revised: 9 Jul 2012
Date Written: 2011
This book review sings the praises of Professor James E. Ryan’s important book, Five Miles Away, A World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America. Ryan carefully reviews the past fifty years of educational reform to reveal that our educational system fails in too many ways because we continue to separate our students by both race and class. He coins the phrase “Save the Cities, Spare the Suburbs” to describe the ill-fated approach of school desegregation efforts, school finance litigation, school choice methods, and recent testing and accountability measures. Through all these reforms, beginning in the mid-1970s and continuing today, educational efforts have promised city school systems improvement through reforms that completely excuse the involvement and investment of suburban schools. This has doomed us to continued segregation and the failures too often attending high-poverty, high-minority schools. Ryan is correct that we need to revive our quest for school integration, both racial and economic. For that reason alone, anyone interested in improving American schooling should read his book. Ryan’s proposal on how to achieve the much needed integration – expanded school choice – proves, however, less convincing. Integration is good, but enhancing school choice, unfortunately, will not get us there – at least not yet.
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