Our schools exist for the children. I hope that this book helps shed some light on what they see when they go to school each day and what they need when they are there. To the extent that I have succeeded, I owe a great debt to the teachers who welcomed me into their classrooms and who talked freely about what it means to teach in times when children’s needs are so great and the public’s will to support schools so limited, when the problems are so complicated and the hopes for a quick, cheap fix so seductive. The official reports of the “impact” of state policies rarely include teachers’ voices; this book is my attempt to add their voices and those of their students to the record.
I am grateful as well to the principals and central office administrators of the school district, particularly the personnel of the research and evaluation office whose curiosity about teaching and learning in the magnet schools prompted them to lend their approval to the extended field observations in schools. High school students continue to welcome me into their classrooms and into their confidence. They have much to tell us about what they hope to learn and be and why they are often afraid that being in school does not always make much sense. That they are so invisible in many of the reform debates and policies makes it essential that the “indicators” not be the final public word on their school experience.
Funding for the years of data collection was provided by a grant from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the U.S. Department of