Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Bob Chase is the two-term president of the National Education Association and a leading advocate for public education. As a former middle school social studies teacher, he thought he knew the ropes of the public school system. No problem, right? Then his daughter entered public middle school and he needed to meet with her teacher. The teacher offered one available time to meet. Bob Chase could not make it due to his schedule. He asked the teacher for another time slot. No response. This is when he learned, as he poignantly states in his book, "when the need arises to deal forthrightly on your child's behalf, we are all essentially amateurs" (Introduction, p. x).
The New Public School Parent is an essential guide for novice and veteran advocates alike. Geared toward all public school parents, the authors offer clear and concise chapters on everything from teachers to homework, from testing to bullying, from the teacher conference to report cards and grades. Most everything you've wanted to know about your child's public school experience is captured in this enjoyable and easy to read text. It is oftentimes the case that either the school or the parent feels vilified at some point in the advocacy process. Coming from a teaching and a parenting background, Chase can put himself in the shoes of both. He, along with co-author Katz, is able to empathize with parents and put in to words the questions they have, the emotions they experience, and the ambiguities they face.
Using bullet points for easy identification, the authors have used a method of delivering information throughout the text that is clear and concise. Each topic is addressed by listing questions to ask, information to know, options to suggest, and anticipated outcomes. Each chapter is brought to life through case examples and anecdotal experiences. By the end of the book, you have gained a behind-the-scenes look into how a school functions and expectations of the teaching profession: you know the steps schools follow, how they make decisions, who is involved in various procedures, what your child's teacher can do for you, and, in turn, what you can do for them.
Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of The New Public School Parent is that the authors address all types of learners. Through a presentation of sound information, suggestions, and questions to ask teachers and schools, parents are well informed on how to best meet the needs of their child. The authors' ability to understand the dilemmas parents of special populations face, as well as challenge common myths, is admirable.
A majority of the chapters identify lists of resources for further investigation of the specific topic. Additionally, many chapters include a "relevant facts" section that offers pertinent statistics and facts. A "big picture" section ties it all together and creates a well-defined conclusion to each chapter.
At the conclusion of this book, you will be a new public school parent: an informed, fair, and sound advocate for your child. You will want to get the best education for your child and will know how to go about getting it. Best of all, you will understand the workings of public schools and realize how to work together to best meet your child's needs.
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