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A Fine Line: How Most American Kids Are Kept Out of the Best Public Schools

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  56 ratings  ·  33 reviews

In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that little Linda Brown couldn't be excluded from a public school because of her race. In that landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the court famously declared that public education must be available to all on equal terms, but sixty-six years later, many of the best public schools remain clos
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published May 17th 2020 by Redtail Press
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Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was book was equal parts interesting, infuriating, and puzzling. It makes a very convincing argument that both district boundaries and within-district school boundaries serve to keep poor children out of elite schools, distort housing markets (by $100s of thousands of dollars for houses in "good" school areas), fall afoul of equal protection under the law, and lead to outrages like school districts hiring investigators to spy on families and verify addresses and parent being charged with fe ...more
When I began my student teaching experience in 2016, I started at a charter school in a Boston neighborhood. In discussions with the teachers about the unique issues they faced in their school community, many commented on the chronic tardiness and absenteeism due to the long commutes many of their students had. Many students chose to commute daily through the insanity that is downtown Boston transportation, by bus, by train, by car, by foot. Some students I talked to said their ride into school ...more
Although I teach toddlers in an early childcare center, and not children at a public school, I was intrigued by the topic of this book, especially in light of last year's college admission's scandal. You may have seen news stories about parents arrested for enrolling their child in a public school with a 'fraudulent' address. DeRoche addresses this - how public schools and neighborhoods are zoned, state and city laws and policies on public education and school enrollment, and why the current sys ...more
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have read several books about why schools are failing and what we can do about it, but this is the first time I've read about the lines that keep families from making choices about what public school their child is able to attend. DeRoche includes maps that highlight how attendance boundaries within districts still reflect the lines that were used decades before to discriminate against minority groups attempting to get mortgage financing. Today the students who live on the "wrong" side of the ...more
Jenn of The Bookish Society
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ah, they are tempting to get on my why we homeschool soapbox. Instead, I'll direct you to this book, which explains in detail the very flawed unfair system of who qualifies for the best education in the United States. The author focused on big-city school districts (zip code determines your school choice in most areas), and I'd add that rural areas see the same discrepancies. You don't have to be fluent in Edu-Speak to understand and exactly why our system needs a revamping. In other words, if y ...more
Kristina (Kristina's Shelves)
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-read
DeRoche has a clear passion for educational equality and has done a great deal of research for this book. Inspired by the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, he demonstrates the many ways education is still separatist and how that leads to implicit biases and inequality of opportunity. DeRoche has complied state laws that control educational zoning, highlighting many loopholes used to give the appearance of any real reforms. Also included is a wealth of knowledge about Supreme Court cas ...more
Megan Byrd
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-books-read
A very in-depth look at the legality of school attendance zones within school districts that prevent some students from accessing higher performing schools and being forced to attend low-performing schools. Should a person’s address keep them from receiving a quality education and the opportunities that come from it? Full of examples of educational discrepancies in public schools around the country and potential solutions which involve legislative changes.
Phi Beta Kappa Authors
Tim DeRoche
ΦBK, Pomona College, 1992


From the publisher: In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that little Linda Brown couldn't be excluded from a public school because of her race. In that landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the court famously declared that public education must be available to all on equal terms. But sixty-six years later, many of the best public schools remain closed to all but the most privileged families. Empowered by little-known state laws, school districts d
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had an advanced copy of this book. The material is fascinating and eye opening. I live in a part of the country where this is a big problem. I think this book highlights something not everyone understands. It has gives some good analogies to the unfair practice by replacing schools with something else, that helps drive home how ridiculous the rebuttals and arguments against it are.
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Interesting, but dry, read about state and district school attendance zone policies and how they conspire to keep poor and minority students out of the best public schools. DeRoche shows how New Deal-era redlining helped contribute to these policies. What's missing is any discussion of the part played by inequitable state and district funding formulae, which is at least as much of a problem in the public school system
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve worked in K12 urban education for 20 years, but I had no idea how state law coupled with district practices underpin the inequities I’ve seen. This is a must-read for all parents, educators and policy makers. DeRoche breaks down the problem with stark side by side examples and offers a new take on how educational inequity might be addressed.
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm a mom with two small kids, and this really resonates with me. I know several families -- friends, family, neighbors -- who have lied about where they live in order to get their kids into a public school. It seems like a crazy way to do it. ...more
Deana Metzke
This book is infuriating, yet very informative. A must read for anyone remotely interested in understanding public school districts and how they operate.
Abigail Thurmond
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A very quick read. Extremely compelling. I hadn't thought about our education system in this way before. ...more
Sara Broad
May 09, 2020 rated it liked it
One part of Tim DeRoche's "A Fine Line" is a book that discusses the laws that have and continue to shape access to quality public schools, primarily within large urban districts. The other part of the book is DeRoche's ideas for how to increase access to "elite" public schools to those who are historically and currently placed in failing schools. As a resident of Philadelphia, I am very familiar with how parents with means purchase houses in specific neighborhoods to give their children access ...more
The Toon Wizard :)
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
As someone who doesn't get to divulge in nonfiction often these days, winning this book by Tim DeRoche was really a wonderful experience. I am a person who's been in the American public school system, seeing this first hand, and I'm so glad to have found a book that addresses the issues that face public schools so often. Before reading this, I honestly thought it would talk more about curriculum; as many critiques of the public school system do just that. However, it really didn't and I'm all th ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a timely nonfiction book that reviews the distracting of the public schools in America. Despite the passage of laws to require an equality and desegregation in our schools, so many systems are based on the tax base in the area that the children live. This is a frank discussion of the factors that still enable discriminatory policies to occur and even be defended. Some schools have strict lines based on where people live, other schools are more by “choice”. The unfortunate outcome of so-c ...more
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
How Communities Bias School Availability

It’s no secret that most parents want the best education possible for their children. The excellence of the school in a community can influence the parents’ choice of where to purchase a house. If they have the means they will opt for the community with the best schools.

DeRoche points out that lines are drawn in communities indicating which areas are serviced by which schools. He believes this is unfair and points out some ideas such as lotteries that cou
Michele Minor
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, e-books
The author discusses about how attendance lines are one cause of American schools are resegregated due to race and class. He goes into some possible ways to remedy the achievement gap in American schools and how to give every child who lives in an area with some great schools and horrible schools an equal chance to go to a great school. He also talks about how some families actually buy into a neighborhood that has excellent public schools, even paying a premium in order to send their child to a ...more
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thank you netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This is a very eye opening social political book on the segregated public school systems that utilize location to keep lower income students from attending. The author reveals how public school administraters in conjunction wealthy families force families from lower incomes to select schools of lower caliber just because they live on the wrong side of the street. This reveals the cracks in the system and the desperate ne
Michelle Castaneda
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Fine Line by Tim DeRoche is a nonfiction work full of case studies across the country. It tells the sad but true story of public education and how low income zip codes cannot get access to the same level of education. This book is eye opening and it is an important read. I was not surprised at all by any of it, having taught at a public school in both the lowest income area and the highest income area of the same city. The differences are astronomical. I received a digital copy of this book fr ...more
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was a very well thought out and well-researched look at attendance zones and their effect on segregation and the ability of students to attend high-performing schools. This book also looked at laws that would allow for a challenge to these kinds of districts. As a teacher, I don't agree with all of the author's remedies but do believe that all students should have access to a high-quality school. ...more
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very good book and one that parents and educators alike need to read and digest. DeRoche lays it out in plain language what is happening to our educational system as far as the have’s and have nots. It is disheartening to see this happening in our neighborhoods. All children deserve a chance to excel.
Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in return of an honest review.
Jerrod Beckenworth
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Any parent will understand this. The book provides the background on these laws that impact our lives and the difficult decisions we need to make in order to get the best education for our kids.

It's outrageous.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow, it's a little eerie that this book would come out at such a time as this. I stumbled on this information shortly before finding this book. It feels like it was something that's always been intuitively known, but it's a very different thing to see the historical reasons why. ...more
Apr 21, 2020 rated it liked it
In A Fine Line, bestselling author Tim DeRoche takes a close look at the laws and policies that dictate which kids are allowed to go to which schools. And he finds surprising parallels between current education policies and the redlining practices of the New Deal era in which minority families were often denied mortgages and government housing assistance because they didn't live within certain desirable zones of the city.

I REALLY wanted to like this book. And if all you are looking for is an ind
May 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book is a total fraud! Long story short: A privileged white man is extremely angry that his kids aren't zoned for the "good" elementary school in his neighborhood. Instead of sending his kids to their zoned elementary school where DeRoche could have used his privilege and resources to help the school, DeRoche uses his privilege to send his kids to private school. But DeRoche is still salty, so he writes a book encouraging citizens to challenge all attendance zones and school boundaries in c ...more
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, politics
The author does a fantastic job outlining what redlining is, why it is appalling, and how it has persisted in this country for decades. The author then takes this data and applies it to current attendance zones and school systems across the country. The data is eyeopening, and widespread. But as I was reading, I kept waiting for solutions to the problem and how we could improve our education system. Sadly, very little beyond modeling our school system after the charter school system and bringing ...more
Doreen Blair
May 06, 2020 rated it liked it
A FINE LINE:How most American Kids are kept
out of the best public schools
Tim DeRoche

I received this on my Kindle for the purpose of review from Net Galley. As I started the book I was
thinking the man is just attacking public schools and education models in U.S. While he has the documentation to prove what he says I was disturbed by the truths he shared. It is in transparency that I share, we homeschooled five children who have families, hold jobs and are outstanding citizens.

Zip codes matter
Cristie Underwood
May 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
The author did a great job of informing the reader of the inequality when it comes to education in America. Schools claim to allow access to all children, but there is a definite division in who gets the best resources. Sadly, there is not enough people advocating for equal education and things won't change anytime soon. I have worked in schools that have had everything needed to foster success and then I have worked in schools where everything is breaking and out of date. It is sad when you kno ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: update the cover of book (prepublication) 2 134 Sep 29, 2020 09:48AM  

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Born and raised in Milwaukee, Tim DeRoche emigrated to California to attend Pomona College, where he studied English literature. He is the author of three books, one published in 2018 and two to be released in 2019.

Tim has optioned horror screenplays to Maverick Films (Twilight trilogy) and Haxan Films (Blair Witch). He has served as executive producer and writer of the children’s science series G

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