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Walt Gardner: What I'm Reading This Summer

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Today's guest post introduces a series that will run in BookMarks over the next few months. I've asked Education Week's opinion bloggers what books they are most looking forward to reading this summer.
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Walt Gardner, the author of Walt Gardner's Reality Check, which is hosted by www.edweek.org, taught for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a lecturer in the UCLA Graduate School of Education. He kicks off the series with his thoughts:

Between writing the Reality Check blog, op-eds, and letters to editors, I've been too busy to read the books that I'd like during the year. As a result, I'm extremely selective. That's why I intend to include The Best Teachers in the World (Hoover Institution Press, 2012) by John E. Chubb, who will become president of the National Association of Independent Schools on July 1. I realize that anything published by the Hoover Institution is going to have a strong ideological bent, but I was intrigued by Chubb's claim that he presents a completely new approach to raising teacher quality so that students will be prepared to meet the challenges of the global economy. Whether Chubb delivers will be interesting to see because the nation's failure to do so seemingly has been thoroughly covered by others before. In any event, I'll reserve judgment until I finish the book.

Next on my list is The Road Out (University of California Press, 2013) by Deborah Hicks, who is an educational scholar at Duke. Billed as a teacher's journey to help poor white girls escape from their impoverished Appalachian community to find a better life, the subject caught my eye because it is a memoir rather than a study. Sometimes this format is particularly effective in engaging readers. The book follows in the footprints of other best-selling authors using this approach. I'm thinking now of Frank McCourt, Pat Conroy, Jonathan Kozol, and Jaime Escalante, whose first-person accounts of their experiences in the classroom with disadvantaged students raised the public's consciousness about their plight. Narrative non-fiction has the potential to engage readers in a way that fiction often cannot. I'm hoping this will be the case with Hicks's book.

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