Dale Russakoff’s “The Prize” is an unsparing chronicle of five controversial years in Newark that began in front of a cheering audience on Oprah and ended this summer with the resignation of Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson.
It is an important, thoughtful, and well-researched book, containing meaningful lessons for anyone with even a passing interest in cities, politics, or education. I echo Connor Williams’ sentiment that “If you read Russakoff’s account and find your beliefs vindicated, you’re not trying hard enough.”
But even if you are trying, what you might miss in “The Prize” is that the past five years have brought real educational gains to Newark students — from a student achievement perspective, Newark’s reforms were anything but a misguided failure. The reforms that “The Prize” treats as a cautionary tale in fact expanded access to high-performing charter schools to the city’s most disadvantaged students. As a result, the number of black students attending schools that “beat the state” in reading and math tripled.