Friday, August 3, 2012

Review # 206: Mission Possible - How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia

     Mission Possible describes the setup and accomplishments of The Success Academy Charter Schools which have found proven methods to keep students challenged, engaged, and motivated in and out of the classroom. The premise is based on the idea that if the teachers, and other adult authority figures, strive to improve performance and attitude, that students will follow their examples and rise to the occasion - "...propelled forward at lightening speed."

     I am a fan of education in most formats as long as the student(s) are getting the most out of their experience(s). I attended public school my whole life, as well as public community/state colleges, so I am pretty well-versed about those types of institutions; however, I have never read anything in-depth about private/charter schooling - besides acknowledging the inflating price tag of private schools. Honestly, I had to Google The Success Academies when I received Mission Possible because I had no idea what/where they were. Format-wise I think the book is well-edited and flows from section-to-section; I did not have any problems following along in the book/with the included DVD. I liked the darkened text boxes that corresponded to different video clips - very easy to use and understand. The content was very novel, a refreshing take on the state of education and possible ideas for the future. If I were teaching, especially young children, I would love to implement some of these methods; particularly those having to do with reading and critical thinking. The authors did a great job setting up the book, although I would have liked to get to know more about classroom management techniques as well as student activities that prompt social skill development. The only drawbacks of this program seem to lie in the rigorousness of the 'course-load' and the areas in which it can be instituted, (rural versus urban, etc...). I also found the amount of boasting about the Success Academies' record quite annoying, but if the program works so well it definitely deserves praise. Overall, a worthwhile read for all those in the teaching/education fields.

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I was asked to respond to the following prompt along with this review.

Stagnation, being unable to accomplish one’s job at a high level, is one of the greatest sources of low teacher morale. Why do you think this country treats teaching so differently than it does other professions?

     Schools used to be one of the most revered institutions of the United States - the land of opportunity - a place where a melting pot of cultures came for a new and better life full of promise. Unfortunately, both the country and its educational system have changed over the years, as have the generations of students that passed through its doors. Thus why the US is lapsing behind other countries who are now at the forefront  of educational evolution  In the past, students held their teachers in higher regard than they do today. Teachers reigned supreme, were respected, and - dare I say - were feared by their pupils. Zero tolerance applied to late assignments, tardiness, and lack of participation - not to the harmless, petty and ridiculous 'problems' occurring in classrooms today. Today's teachers are not calm , cool, and collected - but are overworked, underpaid, and undervalued - and it shows in their efforts. Having an overcrowded classroom full of students who may/may not care for school, lesson plans, and manners can compound this stress; particularly when parents act like teachers are the new part-time nannies. This is why I believe teachers are treated differently than those in other professions. Teachers are the shepherds of the new generation, not the babysitters. Both jobs take extreme responsibility, however, teachers are one of the driving forces of inspiration that motivate students to create, explore, and excel. I am not saying that a teacher is a replacement for a parent, but kids always need an extra shove from a respected figure of authority; it is great for a child to know that a teacher believes in them and wants them to do their best. The point is, teachers who are not happy and motivated won't create students who are happy and motivated; the opposite will occur, and that is the dilemma  the United States is facing. I place blame on both the government, (who is constantly cutting educational funds), and on the parents who seem to have forgotten who the power belongs to in the classroom. Education is a right, but the standard of that rightful education is never dictated. Every parent should want their child (and the school) to succeed because children are the future. Sub-par education should not be acceptable when it is the students, therefore the future, that we are irreparably harming.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (The SITS Girls) in exchange for compensation, and have posted my honest and unbiased review.

About the Authors:
  • Eva Moskowitz is the Founder and CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools. A former New York City Council member, she has earned a national reputation as a fighter for improving public schools' rigor and resources, investing heavily in the arts, sports, and science instruction. Her first school, the Success Academy Harlem 1, quickly emerged as one of the top performing schools in New York State and was featured in The Lottery and Waiting for Superman.
  • Arin Lavinia designed and developed THINK Literacy, a common sense approach to balanced literacy.
  • Visit their website for more information. 

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