National Review

Schools That Work, Literally 
The Cristo Rey Network gives students invaluable real-world experience.

By Samuel Casey Carter

Too many school systems, too many charter management organizations, and far too many educational entrepreneurs are looking to philanthropy to sustain their broken business models. It should be the other way around: Schools should seek new ways to contribute to the economy. For our country’s economic health as well as international competitiveness, U.S. businessmen should be leaning harder than ever on U.S. schools to produce a higher-quality product at a much lower cost. Instead, we continue to spend over $600 billion annually doing a generally miserable job of educating children 5 to 18 years old. Then we raise billions more in philanthropy to create new alternative schools that for the most part would not be necessary if more of the original investment in education delivered the goods.

Looked at in this way, the looming budget deficits that are likely to plague state and local governments for years to come represent the most potent opportunity to effect real education reform that we have seen in decades. School systems for the first time are being forced to do more with less and to put greater emphasis on productivity. School leaders now have to welcome new technologies and new operating models that can be used to educate more children to a higher standard without calling for more money.

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The Weekly Standard

Book Review: Rules of Learning
The problem isn’t absence of money but absence of values.
By Joan Frawley Desmond

Over the past 18 months Race to the Top—the Obama administration’s $4.35 billion program designed to advance public school innovation and student achievement—has prompted furious  competition between state and local school districts, raising expectations that some sort of breakthrough in K-12 education may be at hand. Yet skeptics might be forgiven for harboring doubts about an imminent turnaround, despite the eye-popping stimulus-funded incentives and number-crunching requirements. As Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman” makes clear, the absence of federal funding and mandates hasn’t been the problem.

Guggenheim targeted the teachers’ unions but set aside issues like rigorous academic standards and practices that inspire a school-wide culture of mutual respect and high achievement. The fine points of reform won’t keep movie audiences on the edge of their seats, but Samuel Casey Carter argues that school leaders imperil reform by ignoring foundational work and the ambitious, disciplined follow-through that produce change...

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Chicago Sun-Times

'Best schools' include area's richest, poorest 
By Maudlyne Ihejirika

Providence St. Mel on Chicago's West Side and Hinsdale Central High in the southwest suburbs represent the poorest and wealthiest of 12 schools profiled in a new book as among the nation's best.

The private college prep in poverty-stricken Garfield Park and the Hinsdale public high school serving the 32nd richest zip code in the nation are both offered as evidence that schools that emphasize character development along with scholastic performance can dramatically improve student achievement.

"Those two could not possibly be more different, yet they enjoy the outcomes that can be harnessed by an extraordinary school culture committed to student character," said Samuel Casey Carter, author of On Purpose: How Great School Cultures Form Strong Character, released this week...

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