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Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  347 ratings  ·  60 reviews
“This book is a godsend … a moving portrait for anyone wanting to go beyond the simplified labels and metrics and really understand an urban high school, and its highly individual, resilient, eager and brilliant students and educators.” —Dave Eggers, co-founder, 826 National and ScholarMatch

Darrell is a reflective, brilliant young man, who never thought of himself as a goo
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Nation Books
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Start your review of Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph
HBalikov
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I was wending my way through the vignettes or anecdotes that constitute the bulk of Kristina Rizga’s book and asking “Is that all there is?” It is hard to claim you have a better mousetrap if you only say that it caught mice for Jesmyn and Olaf and Rinaldo but there were hundreds of other students who caught mice with the other mousetrap.

By the end of the book, I had to reconsider……somewhat.

Almost all citizens have an interest in the USA’s public educational system. Most of them have opinions a
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Esil
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
As the parent of two teenagers going through high school, I found Mission High really interesting and somewhat frustrating. My frustration did not come from the book but some of the issues it highlights – and interestingly those issues are not just limited to the American educational system or the plight of students in lower socio economic contexts, although that is the focus of the book and obviously an important focus. The author spent a considerable amount of time at Mission High, a high scho ...more
Frank
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was very conflicted about this book. While it's a nice qualitative exploration of a few kids and teachers at the school (who all seem exceptionally dedicated), it doesn't speak to whether the school as a whole has actually improved in it's job as a school. Yes, a few great teachers and students will excel anywhere, but without numbers to talk about the changes over time, it's hard to place the anecdotes into any context.

For example, the book goes on and on about test scores not really changing
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Colette
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Teachers in all schools, and in high poverty schools like Mission especially, need more time, resources, and support to plan lessons and reflect on outcomes, comb through qualitative data to justify classroom and school - wide changes, keep themselves and their peer accountable, and receive training from respected peers when they are struggling. When teachers are given sustained opportunities to improve their craft, they can develop skills to provide intellectually challenging education in pers ...more
Neil Crossan
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the first 100 pages, but then it became a little repetitious and felt like it could have been covered in a long form article. You can only tell me so many times that getting to focus individually on each student will help with results. Or that people pushing new ideas from the top outside the school won’t be effective. I believed after 50 pages.

What I thought Rizga could have done with the added pages is explore the finances of how a high school actually operates and how it’s funding
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Tad
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book but it took a while to get going for me. I thought the opening chapters were a bit slow and honestly, the stories that interested me the most were the student's stories. I wanted more of those and less of the rest of it. I did find myself liking the educational policy research and history but it took me out of the book a bit and left less room for more of the students' stories. Also, what about the rest of the kids at the school? What are their stories? Why don't we learn mor ...more
Kelly Wong
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
10 stars. Honest and well-researched. Makes me look at our neighborhood high school with a fresh lens and deepens my, already very deep, respect for our public school teachers. This should be required reading for everyone!
Poonam
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I'm not a teacher or an educator, so those in the profession might read this and think, well duh. I found myself thinking back on my high school days as I read this book and see value in applying a student first approach to teaching. Probably would've made school way more interesting.

The only thing I wish this book had was information on the outcomes for these students. There is a brief mention on uptick in graduation rates/drops in suspensions, etc. Would've loved to learn more abou
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Jeremy Bonnette
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Teachers should read this book, although the points made in it would be considered "preaching to the choir."

Policy makers and politicians NEED to read this book, since they're the ones running the show, despite not having a clue on how education works.

Rizga writes in terms that anyone can understand and sprinkles in plenty of education jargon along the way. Her chapters highlight various teachers, students, and periods in the history of education, transitioning from one topic to another with ea
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Chalida
This book is so important and necessary in the national conversation on education right now. The focus on experienced teachers (some entering 3 decades of teaching!), localized curriculum development and mentorship, meeting the needs of the unique "ecosystem" of a school through analysis of authentic student work (not just high stakes test scores) and providing students safe spaces to be themselves...should not be considered revolutionary, but just good education.
To work with some of these folk
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Michelle
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I liked the personal stories of the students and teachers much more than the historical perspectives and policy issues associated with America's achievement gap. The individualized coaching strategies and planning/student work review sessions described in this book are exactly what should happen in schools but doesn't because, in my opinion, tests scores matter to the feds and to district administrators more than kids' personalities and teachers' expertise do.
Jennifer
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am so glad I read this book immediately after finishing “Other People’s Children” by Lisa Delpit. Delpit’s book is more academic, but Rizga draws out many similar pedagogical topics through the school, teachers and students that she profiles. Her book really emphasized, for me, the hand-made quality of good schooling, which is undermined by our current factory-model with its focus on quantitative results. I love this idea that human beings, in the trenches, can identify and solve problems, eve ...more
Shafkat Ahnaf
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall, it's a good look at one particular school in SF. The author does seem somewhat idealistic in my opinion, but I happen to agree with her overall premise - standardized testing as a sole metric of student performance doesn't work. The author argues that a subjective approach is often better, because it takes into account the school's and the student's particularities. While I agree with that in principal, I do believe you can take that too far as well, and have no measurable metric for a ...more
Jennifer
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an excellent look inside the problematic attempts to evaluate states, districts, schools, and teachers based on data from standardized tests. It combines narrative details about specific students and teachers from Mission with well-researched facts about education policy and even some good advice regarding effective teaching practice! For educators, you may find it "preaching to the choir," but I enjoyed the opportunity to hear thoughts about educational trends from an "outsider" perspec ...more
Deb Dauber
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you are interested in education reform, or have a child in public school, or live in San Francisco, and especially if more than one of these is true of you, I highly recommend this book. It is written in a journalistic style that makes it easy to read and uses both personal stories and a historical perspective to tell the story of Mission High School. I absolutely loved this book.

My only caveat is that the author has a definite bias against standardized testing and towards individualized inst
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Keely
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I really loved this book.
First of all the way it was written was so immersive and had a much more narrative fell to it than other non-fiction education books I have read.
I think that this has really high readability. You definitely don't need to be in a college class to pick this up and understand it. And you absolutely don't have to be interested in education to enjoy it.
I love the perspective from multiple people in the school and how the author focused in on just one story at a time a
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Sydney
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book totally changed my perspective on what teachers actually do. In order to help their students succeed, educators put in hours far beyond the typical 8-3 school day. Would recommend for any current, future or former teacher, or anyone looking to get a better glimpse at what teachers and students today deal with.
Gloria Chua
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insightful account which ties together personal stories from teachers and students. Highlights the challenging historical context that had shaped the public school system of today, that Mission High School lives in, without flattening the school's narrative into a predictable template.
Rebecca
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it
(3.5 stars)
Charlie Wiswall
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Provides a good look at how culturally responsive teaching, rather than top-down teaching to a test made Mission High great for students.
Rose Peterson
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
After reading the introduction of this book, I thought I was on board with Rizga. Her thoughts on educational research ("I used to think that successful educational reform occurs when struggling schools adopt research-based practices from academic reports, case studies from other countries, or practices of high-scoring schools with similar demographics. As I observed the implementation of new teaching approaches in the math department for three years, I saw firsthand how copying and pasting blue ...more
Kristin
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“Why doesn’t my opinion about school matter? Why does the government get the final say on whether my school is good or bad? Some people in my middle school told me that I’ll never go to college. Then I came to Mission, and Mr. Velez made me feel so welcome. Mr. Roth expects more from me than anyone. How can they call our school ‘bad’?” asks Maria, a student profiled in Mission High. Author Kristina Rizga writes that her book is an “attempt to elevate the largely invisible voices of students and ...more
b aaron talbot
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
if you are curious about the problems with how we view public education in america, and have not read anything on the subject yet, this is a fantastic book to read. it provides a well thought out history of education movements in america, in-depth looks at what teachers experience in the current climate of top-down leadership, and real student experiences in classrooms where teachers do their best to use what they know to be successful pedagogy in the face of political/administrative/"leadership ...more
Elizabeth
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: college
So excellent! One of those rarities where you learn so much that you come out of it realizing the magnitude of what you don't know. It was great to read this account of a high school in the area but completely different from my experience. I always am enamored by the personal student and staff biographies but the history of educational accountability was really interesting, especially because it incorporated contributions from local education figures at Stanford and in the area. These people lik ...more
Liz Murray
A skilfully executed book that explores the work being done by teachers and students at Mission High School in San Francisco. The book is made up of individual profiles and a more general overview of the school, and of neoliberal ed policy in a wider field.
Rizga lays out a clear argument against high stakes standardised tests and what the alternatives need to be. The teachers she profiles engage their students and show genuine connection to their students, which leads to better outcomes for all
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Whitney
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
So many rants I hear both inside and outside the classroom are about teachers failing students. And I think this book starts to explore that attitude a bit at the end when one student demands that teachers push her harder because she knows she won't do the work otherwise. It's nice that a book like this advocates for teachers while still making those demands. It was both inspiring and scary. As a college instructor I don't HAVE to care much about individual student success. Don't get me wrong; I ...more
North Landesman
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Fascinating book to read, a bit hard to get through because of the lack of a narrative thread and Rizga's random boring chapters on John Dewey and the history or education that various terrible schools of education forced us all to read.


The thought-provoking parts to me: Can both Rizga and the "No Excuses" data-driven people both be right? Maybe using a large amount of data points is better than a single data point? I found it interesting and odd how they used data points in the education, yet
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Jo-anne Atkinson
Aug 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In the week in which the results of key exams are published in the UK and we are watching about chinese education methods on TV I read this book and realised that in the US the situation is just the same. Written over five years, Rizga immersed herself in the life of Mission High School in San Francisco and in this book shows how the key purpose of education is different for different audiences. Mission High serves a deprived student body with over forty nationalities. For many of them getting t ...more
Kate Raphael
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best thing about this book is the student stories. One of the teachers profiled is a friend of mine, so of course I enjoyed that and I actually learned a lot about his teaching process, which was great. And the book does a good job of challenging the myths about "failing schools." Even though I know a lot of people associated with Mission (besides the teachers, the law firm where I work coaches their Mock Trial team), I had no idea that their graduation and college attendance rates were so h ...more
Samuel Lubell
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, education
Mission High by Kristina Rizga is an important book. It includes a discussion of policy and chapters on the development of education policy, specifically the struggle for control between the child-centered advocates and the administrative progressives and the victory of the latter as politicians try to make the schools more like high-testing Asian systems at the very time when they are trying to be more like our flexible system. But Rizga never loses sight of how policy needs to work at the leve ...more
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“To implement these changes, the school initially followed a more typical, top-down strategy of reform: the state sent in a consultant to implement changes. “It was an outsider who came in and talked about the civil rights movement and did touchy feely group discussions,” Guthertz recalls. “Someone else came in and for one day taught behavior management strategies that focused on controlling and penalizing students versus making changes in teaching practices that would engage and support them. That blew up at the school. The administration got rid of that program.” The issues that come with this kind of approach to school reform—“do what the district, state, or consultants say”—have been a recurring theme in the long careers of Guthertz, Roth, and McKamey. “It comes off as an attempt to hijack the effort by the teachers to think about education,” McKamey comments. “It’s the deepest disrespect. The teacher has been teaching for ten years and someone is going to come in and say, ‘I’m going to show you something.’ Most of these people have never taught in the classroom.” 1 likes
“it’s easier for a journalist to embed with the army than to go behind the scenes at a public school. Schools are a home to minors, after all, and the degree of protection is greater than in most other public institutions. It took months to find a school that would let me be a fly on the wall.” 0 likes
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