Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Out Today

I’m still working on my own look at the journalistic strengths and weaknesses of “The Prize,” but in the meantime there are some other reviews you might want to read or know about:

Perhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers’ misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark’s $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). 

These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff’s responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). 

Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that’s no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 

In the last 24 hours, there’s been NYT columnist Joe Nocera’s piece on the book (Zuckerberg’s Expensive Lesson), which notes among other things that “almost half” of the Zuckerberg effort went to Newark teachers in the form of back pay, salaries for teachers who weren’t assigned to a classroom, and bonuses. “Apparently, Zuckerberg has learned his lesson. What will it take for the rest of us to learn?” And just this morning, WNYC’s Sarah Gonzales gave us an update on how some of the characters in the book are doing (How Booker, Christie Spent the $100 Million Facebook Donation), including a breakout of spending (most of which went to teachers and principals, not consultants).

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.