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

Characterized as a "low-performing school" by national testing standards, Mission High in San Francisco has faced stiff penalties in the past decade for its low standardized test scores. But when education reporter Kristina Rizga went behind the scenes at Mission for a magazine assignment, she found a vibrant, racially diverse community of passionate, skilled teachers and intellectually curious students. Rizga spent four years at Mission, observing classes and participating in campus life while interviewing faculty members and students. Her first book, Mission High, presents a thoughtful, well-researched account of her time there, using it as a case study to explore the problems with education reform in the U.S.

While the school continued to post low test scores, Rizga found that Mission was making significant gains in other areas: rising college acceptance rates, decreasing dropout rates and improvement in students' critical thinking and other high-level skills. Focusing on a handful of students and faculty members, Rizga provides an in-depth look at Mission's personalized, "hyper-local" teaching model--the opposite of the "factory" model of standardized testing. She sets the school's challenges in context, giving a brief overview of education reform movements in the U.S. and arguing that top-down, nationally mandated policies and procedures ultimately hurt schools like Mission rather than help them.

In clear and cogent prose, Rizga makes a compelling case for allowing schools to direct their own learning. Mission High is both a breath of fresh air and an inspirational, practical model for struggling education communities around the country. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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