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The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons from America from a Small School in Harlem

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  289 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Deborah Meier's acclaimed first book, with a new preface

"The founder and principal of excellent small schools in East Harlem . . . Meier wants to make all students capable of participating in and sustaining a democracy. . . . Doubters must read Deborah Meier to take a look at that success up close, to watch it begin and grow and flourish." —Lorene Cary, The New York Times
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 16th 2002 by Beacon Press (first published 1995)
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Jonna Higgins-Freese
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Deborah Meier writes of her experiences creating a school in Harlem where "90 percent of the students graduate from high school and 90 percent of those go on to college, this in a city where the average graduation rate is 50 percent."

She's clear-eyed and practical: they did all this while still complying with federal and state regulations regarding school (this is pre-NCLB, no idea how they're handling this now). She's honest about the difficulties and failures.

But, she writes, it turns out tha
Kelly Rueda
Nov 11, 2007 rated it liked it
At last I found someone who thinks ideas based in early childhood education need to be implemented in later grades as well!!
Dec 06, 2007 rated it liked it
I read this for school, but it was fascinating. Interesting for anyone in education.
Feb 23, 2009 rated it liked it
High school reform was my hobby for years and her ideas are some of the best.
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
A mixture of the author's experience as a teacher/leader at CPE (public school in East Harlem) and her ideas and opinions of education in general. Interesting (leftist) take on school choice. ...more
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pedagogy, nonfiction
Fantastic! Will certainly refer back to in concerns to her school's 5 habits of mind. ...more
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This woman is my hero!
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though this book is more than 20 years old now, Meier's vision for what public schools can be is no less needed today than when it was published. From her experience launching several new schools within New York City's public school system, she lays out a new way that education can happen, where schools are small, class periods are long, and boundaries are blurred between subjects and between classrooms. She pushes back on the critics who claim it can't be done for various reasons — buildin ...more
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I should start with - I am a homeschooling parent; I am not directly helping Ms. Meier’s cause of improving schools and communities jointly. But oh, her ideas so resonate with me. I love, LOVE how she hammers home over and over that only through proper schooling can we have a healthy democracy and healthy citizenry.

I think we can all agree right now that we have a problem. Protests over injustices of every kind towards blacks, unbelievable politicizing of basic steps like wearing a mask to prot
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the very best books and most important on education. Deborah Meier is an engaging writer. The style is conversational. Each chapter tackles a different issue of education, within the theme of public, progressive democratic eduction, much in the spirit of John Dewey. She tells this in the context of her success creating and directing a public school in East Harlem serving primarily low-income minority students.
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Must read for anyone in education!
C Miller
I read this way back and got a copy of the "advance copy." The writing is clear and practical. East Harlem public education is the focus and is a good read for those wanting to know more about the challenges facing urban education. (I'm adding this review in 2017, a good 20 years after the book was published). ...more
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This is an essential read to any person considering a career as a teacher in the American public school system. It provides an in-depth look at education reform in America, more specifically East Harlem. Initially, Meier’s introduction to her beginnings as both a student and educator left me feeling put off from her writing.

Meier describes her childhood as being that of an upper class background full of privilege, including the attendance of a private school in New York City, “Each year we were
Aug 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone that's intersted in small schools
Recommended to Jonathan by: Rachael
Shelves: non-fiction
A kind of manifesto for the small schools movement across the country written by one of the pioneering 'mothers' of the movement. It's a really hopeful book and one that takes the feeling that something's amiss in our public schools, and puts words to how that uneasy feeling can be changed to something that works, especially for our most 'disadvantaged' students and communities. I really enjoyed reading about the 'nuts and bolts' of small schools: how they get started ('incubated'), the school s ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, rtr
What an inspiring book! Deborah Meier is a rare intellect. She possesses both a first-rate mind and the drive to use it. She is a champion of small schools: schools that can specialize and adapt to the changing demands we make of them; schools that teach their students to think deeply and work actively as a community of learners and citizens. I'm not sure I agree with her quantitatively, but she certainly makes interesting points. Beyond her recommendations for transforming America's schools, I ...more
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
In the ongoing debate or argument about public school reform, very rarely are the voices of people actually WORKING on school reform from the inside heard. Deb Meier has been working to improve the educational outcomes of students in communities from California to Pennsylvania to New York and her research and results are interesting. I'll be using her Habits of Mind in my classroom this year as a framework to improve student writing, reading, and critical thinking. The book is very readable, and ...more
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I have long respected Deb Meier for the ideas behind community schooling and the Coalition for Essential Schools (and whose colleague Vito Perrone was the leader of the HGSE program through which I got my M.Ed and cert). Both reasonable and insistent as always, this book rewarded me by inspiring a number of ideas I have enjoyed considering, although I don't agree with all of her points. Meier is one of America's great liberal educators, and should be considered if you care about education, even ...more
Jill Corbett
I loved this book! It tells how the author created public schools (Central Park East in Harlem) that are more like some very elite independent private schools. And it brings up a lot of very thought provoking ideas in regards to education. Like this one for instance. "No school shall have graduation requirements that cannot be met by every professional working in the school, and therefore these requirements shall be phased in only as fast as the school can bring its staff up to the standards it ...more
Kristen Dunder
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I found this an interesting account about how collaboration and a belief in improving inner city public schools can make a positive difference! Created in 1974, the Central Park East schools have had great success in providing quality education to its Harlem students, high graduation rates, and college enrollments, due in great part to smaller school settings, willingness on behalf of staff to try new ideas, and a mutual respect between administration, teachers, parents, and students.
Hugh Harmon
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Those interested in educational leadership in a postmodern world and are tired of the semantic-laden educational reforms that are really a repackaging of failed traditional schemes of student management should read this book and look for ways toshkent what this school does a part of their ideology for real student achievement.
Aug 02, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: school-reform
Good ideas, but not realistic for the public schools I have worked in. Ther whole model is based on a "school of choice" that has a very different student population than the regular default public school when the children or their parents exercise no choice. ...more
Mark Valentine
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Meier is the guru of educational achievement mainly because she respects the students and (as a true constructivist) sets up the learning environment to teach the students when the right thing at the right moment. She has a proven record as a reformer.
Mar 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book was inspiring and formative in my career development... it resonated with and shaped my earliest ideas of education reform...
Jun 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Great book about how inner city schools can have a "private school" feel. ...more
Aug 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a really powerful book that made me think a lot about how to affect change that is both substantive and sustainable.
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-teaching
A good simple book by a person with a good simple idea: small schools work. Then, she put her ideas into action. A breath of fresh air in the blather of education writing.
Read this one for my 1st Grad Class - Current and Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Education. Great book! All about CPE schools in NY.
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Debbie Meier is an inspiration, and I remember reading this book several times during my credential year. The habits of mind are inspiring.
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
If you're sick of standardized testing but don't know another way forward for our public education system, then read this book. Equally practical as it is encouraging. ...more
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