Reviewed by Mark J. Griffin, Ph.D.
Peg Tyre’s new book, The Good School: How Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve is a must read for all parents who want the best possible education for their children. The book is especially helpful to parents of children with learning disabilities and ADHD as it’s filled with information and advice on how to navigate the school system to ensure that children with special needs receive the services necessary to maximize their education.
Tyre takes a no-nonsense, practical approach to showing parents how to assess the effectiveness of their child’s school and to bring about change, when necessary. Her roadmap includes asking the right questions, getting actively involved, and fostering respectful relationships with school personnel—elements important for influencing change.
Her advice reflects a harsh reality of education today as parents find themselves in the unenviable position of knowing little about education, yet being pressed to make critical decisions and judgments about their children’s schooling.
The Good School helps parents to “look under the hood” and get up to speed on the most important issues that are likely to impact their child’s educational experience.
Tyre escorts the reader through the mainstays of education—reading and math—confirming that we do indeed know how to teach these subjects effectively, yet often do not. She shows that good evidence-based practice in all content disciplines exists, is readily available, yet does not get used in the classroom as often as it should.
Perhaps most important, Tyre does not simply describe the issues, shortcomings, and frustrations that abound in education today. She rolls up her sleeves and shows readers what they can do to choose schools wisely, and help to improve them by becoming a well-informed partner in the educational process.
Throughout the book, Tyre makes a strong case for balance—balancing the way we assess students’ progress, and creating balance in the curriculum. She argues that recess is as important as other subjects in the development of the whole child. And in this era of high-stakes testing, she warns against teaching to the test, suggesting that doing so is robbing us of opportunities to really educate children.
At the end of each chapter Tyre provides succinct, critical “Take Aways” which will help parents grasp the critical features of the content. Readers will find themselves referring to these themes as they embrace their important role as active participants in their child’s school and education.
The Key Ingredient
When all is said and done, Tyre points a knowing finger at the most critical component of a child’s successful educational experience. After plying the reader with statistics, content area exploration, the testing phenomenon, class size, politics, funding, school culture, and a myriad of other defining features of our education system, she focuses squarely on the most important mediating variable – the effective teacher.
Good teachers it seems matter more than almost anything else in a child’s education. Tyre suggests that the best schools have created a school-wide process to develop and retain excellent teachers. They provide deliberate, focused mentoring programs and multilevel teacher evaluations that include evaluation of test scores, class observation, and parent and student surveys. All those variables are used to inform and improve teacher and school practices.
Tyre leaves us with food for thought as she describes what the “perfect school” might look like and then nudges us back to reality by telling the reader there really is no such thing. She does suggest, however, that parents in a true partnership with schools may be able to come pretty close.
Mark J. Griffin, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School in Greenwich, CT for children with learning disabilities. He is on the board of directors for the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and is a member of Smart Kids’ Professional Advisory Board.