15 must-read books about K-12 education in the US

In 1983 the Reagan administration released its “A Nation at Risk" report – a devastating critique of America's public schools based on the decline of test scores since 1963. Though later studies cast doubt on “A Nation at Risk,” histrionic rhetoric about “failed schools” has been with us every since. Popular documentaries like “Waiting for Superman” and “The Lottery” suggest that charter schools are the unmitigated answer to our public education woes. And now a new film starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal – “Won’t Back Down,” which opens in theaters this week – promotes the controversial “parent-trigger” laws that allow parents to convert their local schools to charters in some states. What’s really going on in America's public schools today? Here are 15 must-read books that provide a more nuanced perspective on the current state of US public education.

1. 'Saving the School: The True Story of a Principal, a Teacher, a Coach, a Bunch of Kids and a Year in the Crosshairs of Education Reform,' by Michael Brick

"Saving the School" is the true story of a school in Texas that got the results school reformers demand without doing any of the things that many of them champion. This school focused not on test-taking, but on restoring pride to the community through plays, yearbooks, school clubs, and other activities, in addition to supporting teachers rather than firing them en masse. It was a revived community, not “no excuses” education reform, that helped students achieve higher goals and feel invested in their futures. "Saving the School" is a quickly paced book that helpfully illuminates some of the current debates in public education.

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