Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools

Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools

by Chester E. Finn Jr., Jessica A. Hockett


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An in-depth look at academically selective public high schools in America

What is the best education for exceptionally able and high-achieving youngsters? Can the United States strengthen its future intellectual leadership, economic vitality, and scientific prowess without sacrificing equal opportunity? There are no easy answers but, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett show, for more than 100,000 students each year, the solution is to enroll in an academically selective public high school. Exam Schools is the first-ever close-up look at this small, sometimes controversial, yet crucial segment of American public education. This groundbreaking book discusses how these schools work—and their critical role in nurturing the country's brightest students.

The 165 schools identified by Finn and Hockett are located in thirty states, plus the District of Columbia. While some are world renowned, such as Boston Latin and Bronx Science, others are known only in their own communities. The authors survey the schools on issues ranging from admissions and student diversity to teacher selection. They probe sources of political support, curriculum, instructional styles, educational effectiveness, and institutional autonomy. Some of their findings are surprising: Los Angeles, for example, has no "exam schools" while New York City has dozens. Asian-American students are overrepresented—but so are African-American pupils. Culminating with in-depth profiles of eleven exam schools and thoughtful reflection on policy implications, Finn and Hockett ultimately consider whether the country would be better off with more such schools.

At a time of keen attention to the faltering education system, Exam Schools sheds positive light on a group of schools that could well provide a transformative roadmap for many of America's children.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691156675
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 09/16/2012
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Chester E. Finn, Jr. is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. A former assistant U.S. secretary of education, he is the author of many books, including Charter Schools in Action and Troublemaker (both Princeton). Jessica A. Hockett is an education consultant specializing in differentiated instruction, curriculum design, and lesson study. She earned her doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I: The Big Picture 5

Chapter 1: History and Context 7

Chapter 2: Searching for Needles in the High School Haystack 22

Chapter 3: Exploring a New Constellation 28

Part II: Inside the Schools 57

Introduction 59

Chapter 4: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, IL 61

Chapter 5: School Without Walls, Washington, D.C. 71

Chapter 6: Central High School Magnet Career Academy, Louisville, KY 79

Chapter 7: Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin, TX 88

Chapter 8: Jones College Prep, Chicago, IL 96

Chapter 9: Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans, LA 106

Chapter 10: Townsend Harris High School, Queens, NY 114

Chapter 11: Pine View School for the Gifted, Osprey, FL 122

Chapter 12: Oxford Academy, Cypress, CA 131

Chapter 13: Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, NJ 140

Chapter 14: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Annandale, VA 149

Chapter 15: Similarities and Differences 159

Part III: Summing Up 167

Chapter 16: Dilemmas and Challenges 169

Chapter 17: Conclusions 188

Appendix I: Selection Process and School List 203

Appendix II: Survey Questions 216

Notes 229

Index 249

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"As a proud graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for the importance of exam schools in our educational system, and this book arrives in the nick of time. Finn and Hockett pull back the veil of mystery surrounding these schools to show us where they've succeeded, where they've fallen short, and what we can learn from these remarkable institutions to improve the education of all Americans."—Andrew Lo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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