I was going to be more subtle, but the point here really is to plug an invaluable new book.
The topic-- or, topics-- of education reform now requires the equivalent of a self-administered undergrad degree just to understand. Those of us who have traveled far down the rabbit hole may often forget it, but there is a whole list of names and programs and policies that we rattle off without thinking, but which hit the average civilian's ear like a sloppy bowl of foreign gibberish. We have long needed an entry-level text for people who are just entering the field.
Enter Russ Walsh. Russ has just published A Parent's Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for my Child, and it is an excellent starting place for people who are trying to Make Sense of It All. Walsh is a blogger and teacher, an expert in the field of reading, and an erudite writer with great focus and skill.
The table of contents gives you the idea of what this book covers:
1) Education Reform in the 21st Century
2) The qualities of a good school
3) Readiness for school
4) Meeting your child's learning needs in Literacy and Mathematics
5) Meeting your child's social and emotional needs
6) Technology and learning
7) Getting a good teacher in every classroom
8) The Common Core
9) Uses and abuses of standardized tests
10) The standardized test opt-out movement
11) School choice: charter schools and vouchers
Each chapter has subheadings that allow the reader to go straight to the answers they want at the moment. The book also kicks off with Walsh's powerhouse Bill of Rights for School Children.
The book manages to lay out the issues clearly and directly, and while there is no doubt that Walsh is not on the side of the reformsters, he gives them their say and presents their side fairly and clearly as well (It's not his fault that they're just wrong).
This is the rare book that can clarify issues without cutting corners or dumbing down. Even if you are someone conversant in the rocky terrain of ed reform, Walsh's book will remind you of the clarity of the issues behind the mess, and he manages to put all of this sprawling messiness in context, creating one large picture as well. And all in under 200 pages.
This is an excellent gift for your friend or colleague who has just started to try to make sense of the reformy terrain, and it will be an invaluable aid to parents who are just realizing that the whole school biz is more complicated than it was back in their day. Buy this book!