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Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education

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Public schools are among America's greatest achievements in modern history, yet from the earliest days of tax-supported education--today a sector with an estimated budget of over half a billion dollars--there have been intractable tensions tied to race and poverty. Now, in an era characterized by levels of school segregation the country has not seen since the mid-twentieth Public schools are among America's greatest achievements in modern history, yet from the earliest days of tax-supported education--today a sector with an estimated budget of over half a billion dollars--there have been intractable tensions tied to race and poverty. Now, in an era characterized by levels of school segregation the country has not seen since the mid-twentieth century, cultural critic and American studies professor Noliwe Rooks provides a trenchant analysis of our separate and unequal schools and argues that profiting from our nation's failure to provide a high-quality education to all children has become a very big business. Cutting School deftly traces the financing of segregated education in America, from reconstruction through Brown v. Board of Education up to the current controversies around school choice, teacher quality, the school-to-prison pipeline, and more, to elucidate the course we are on today: the wholesale privatization of our schools. Rooks's incisive critique breaks down the fraught landscape of "segrenomics," showing how experimental solutions to the so-called achievement gaps--including charters, vouchers, and cyber schools--rely on, profit from, and ultimately exacerbate disturbingly high levels of racial and economic segregation under the guise of providing equal opportunity. Rooks chronicles the making and unmaking of public education and the disastrous impact of funneling public dollars to private for-profit and nonprofit operations. As the infrastructure crumbles, a number of major U.S. cities are poised to permanently dismantle their public school systems--the very foundation of our multicultural democracy. Yet Rooks finds hope and promise in the inspired individuals and powerful movements fighting to save urban schools. A comprehensive, compelling account of what's truly at stake in the relentless push to deregulate and privatize, Cutting School is a cri de coeur for all of us to resist educational apartheid in America.


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Public schools are among America's greatest achievements in modern history, yet from the earliest days of tax-supported education--today a sector with an estimated budget of over half a billion dollars--there have been intractable tensions tied to race and poverty. Now, in an era characterized by levels of school segregation the country has not seen since the mid-twentieth Public schools are among America's greatest achievements in modern history, yet from the earliest days of tax-supported education--today a sector with an estimated budget of over half a billion dollars--there have been intractable tensions tied to race and poverty. Now, in an era characterized by levels of school segregation the country has not seen since the mid-twentieth century, cultural critic and American studies professor Noliwe Rooks provides a trenchant analysis of our separate and unequal schools and argues that profiting from our nation's failure to provide a high-quality education to all children has become a very big business. Cutting School deftly traces the financing of segregated education in America, from reconstruction through Brown v. Board of Education up to the current controversies around school choice, teacher quality, the school-to-prison pipeline, and more, to elucidate the course we are on today: the wholesale privatization of our schools. Rooks's incisive critique breaks down the fraught landscape of "segrenomics," showing how experimental solutions to the so-called achievement gaps--including charters, vouchers, and cyber schools--rely on, profit from, and ultimately exacerbate disturbingly high levels of racial and economic segregation under the guise of providing equal opportunity. Rooks chronicles the making and unmaking of public education and the disastrous impact of funneling public dollars to private for-profit and nonprofit operations. As the infrastructure crumbles, a number of major U.S. cities are poised to permanently dismantle their public school systems--the very foundation of our multicultural democracy. Yet Rooks finds hope and promise in the inspired individuals and powerful movements fighting to save urban schools. A comprehensive, compelling account of what's truly at stake in the relentless push to deregulate and privatize, Cutting School is a cri de coeur for all of us to resist educational apartheid in America.

30 review for Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    In a New York Times interview published February 6, 2018, Tayari Jones said she read this book and was so frustrated she threw it across the room. So, of course, I had to read this book. To read the rest of this review and to see a short video of the author, Noliwe Rooks CLICK HERE. In a New York Times interview published February 6, 2018, Tayari Jones said she read this book and was so frustrated she threw it across the room. So, of course, I had to read this book. To read the rest of this review and to see a short video of the author, Noliwe Rooks CLICK HERE.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gabriella

    This is a sweeping account of the various means by which hypocrisy, inefficiency, and greed have impacted our current wave of “educational reform,” and continued a legacy of inadequate public education for Black Americans. Through observations of alternative certification programs like Teach for America, and takedowns of alternative schooling options like charter and virtual schools, Noliwe Rooks shows how the powers that be have done everything to fix the wheel of educational inequity except br This is a sweeping account of the various means by which hypocrisy, inefficiency, and greed have impacted our current wave of “educational reform,” and continued a legacy of inadequate public education for Black Americans. Through observations of alternative certification programs like Teach for America, and takedowns of alternative schooling options like charter and virtual schools, Noliwe Rooks shows how the powers that be have done everything to fix the wheel of educational inequity except break its axle—segregated schooling. Perhaps most controversially, she suggests this avoidance of the elephant in the room is by design; that is, educational inequity, and pretending to solve it via dubious outsider reforms, has become financially prudent for many privileged Americans. If you are even slightly familiar with the public debates around urban education, you won’t find any new ideas in this book (besides the one I just covered, which, if you think about it, is a logical conclusion.) I think Rooks’ contribution is namely that of organizing all of the controversies into one place, providing specific examples (helpful if, like me, you forget the details of one-off articles), and tying current travesties into a larger American history of unequal education. I think there are authors who do this in much more engaging ways, such as Nikole Hannah-Jones, who Rooks often references in this work, but Cutting School may be more appealing/useful in an academic context. Rooks, like Hannah-Jones, definitely seems to be one of those writers who believes that the moral arc of our universe, or at least the educational arc, does not bend towards justice. With the exception of a few outdated examples, she fails to mention the reform stemming not from Ivy League dropouts and hedge funds, but from “the black community” she so frequently (and often abstractly) refers to. She mentions the failure of Zuckerberg and Booker’s project in Newark, but not the work Ras Baraka and community residents have since put in to rebuild their schools. She mentions the vast problems with charter schools, but barely notes the quality charters that are accessible, accountable, and helping to provide the academic options black students so desperately need. As someone who currently works at one of those responsibly run, neighborhood charters, I felt like her prognosis was both incomplete and underdeveloped—wouldn’t it be most helpful to discuss not just the disease, but the treatment plan? While she jarringly ends with a lackluster pat on the back to black communities fighting for educational equity, and two random reflections from TFA alums, I didn’t really feel like she adequately captured the progress black communities have been making on their own terms. One of my grievances with many Africana Studies scholars is that they are quick to detail what everyone else has done wrong, but reluctant to enact solutions themselves, or even cover them in their scholarly work. I think this is ridiculously unfair to our community, given that everyone already knows the problems, and we are more wanting of the solutions. In this specific case, Rooks could’ve written a couple more chapters about where we go from here . I get that there is no single bullet solution to our problems with education, and I think it’s important to address these issues, but we must even more rigorously pursue their answers. The families and students Rooks describes, after being so terribly slighted by our country’s educational system, oftentimes for generations, at least deserve this from her work.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I’m mad. I think I’m supposed to be mad. I think Rooks wants me to be mad. How could you not be after reading a book that traces the entire history of inequality in public schools starting in the 1800s and winds up in much the same place in the 2000s? Using her portmanteau “segrenomics,” Rooks discusses how big business has been profiting off of children of color and/or in poverty since the emancipation of slavery. Bigwigs like John D. Rockefeller set out to assist in establishing public educati I’m mad. I think I’m supposed to be mad. I think Rooks wants me to be mad. How could you not be after reading a book that traces the entire history of inequality in public schools starting in the 1800s and winds up in much the same place in the 2000s? Using her portmanteau “segrenomics,” Rooks discusses how big business has been profiting off of children of color and/or in poverty since the emancipation of slavery. Bigwigs like John D. Rockefeller set out to assist in establishing public education for children of free slaves, not because of some progressive itch, but because he saw the opportunity to force a new generation of “free” people into inferiority by providing them only specific types of schooling. When you realize that the schooling those same people of color get today, you’ll want to ship capitalism off back to where it came from. The most nauseating aspect about this issue is the cyclic nature of this profiting disguised as altruism and philanthropy. Rooks outlines nearly every issue imaginable, from racially-biased standardized tests, school vouchers, charter schools, and educational redlining. No matter the topic, the same theme appears: someone is profiting off underprivileged students. Without those underprivileged students, there would be no money for those businesses. It begs the question: what rationale do they have to really help these students in a lasting, impactful way? While I definitely learned a lot, and this book was well researched and comprehensive, I thought there were a few moments where counterarguments could have been more persuasive with more examples. But overall this text will be one I recommend my fellow teachers (and a handful of students) to read. It has made me think about my own practice and my own voice as a teacher of a diverse student body in ways I haven’t thought since grad school.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Greg Brozeit

    The conceit of American exceptionalism is built on a rickety architecture of myths; myths that often overlap with messy truths. Consider George Washington's apocryphal confession “I cannot tell a lie” or the sanitized Hollywood versions of how the West was “won.” Or better yet, read Noliwe Rooks’ opening sentence in Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education—one with a Straussian Also Sprach Zarathustra-ish quality—“The road necessarily traveled to achieve freedo The conceit of American exceptionalism is built on a rickety architecture of myths; myths that often overlap with messy truths. Consider George Washington's apocryphal confession “I cannot tell a lie” or the sanitized Hollywood versions of how the West was “won.” Or better yet, read Noliwe Rooks’ opening sentence in Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education—one with a Straussian Also Sprach Zarathustra-ish quality—“The road necessarily traveled to achieve freedom and equality in the United States leads directly through public education.” In theory, this conferred an undebatable ideal, one—with very few exceptions—this nation has rarely, if ever, lived up to. Take, for example, the post-Civil War 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments of the Constitution, from which former slaves and their descendants were guaranteed the full rights of American citizenship. But the messy truth, as Douglas Blackmon wrote in Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, was far removed from the ideal. One of the central elements to achieve the promise of these amendments was the establishment of public education to serve all citizens, it would be key to help all realize the full promise of citizenship. Southern Whites resisted by trying to keep “African Americans out of the most important efforts of government to improve public life.” Segregating public education “was the most critical target of the racial attack.” As “Whites gawked at the schools opened for Reconstruction” in which “[p]er pupil spending on education for black children and white children was essentially identical…", the idea “[t]hat ‘white taxes’ were spent for the education, rather than solely on their own, was infuriating.” American history from Jim Crow era right up to today has proven segregation in public education to be a force that only gets stronger and more entrenched. Segregation creates real, often permanent, roadblocks to achieve individual and social liberty. Moreover, the reality of the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education, which overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine of the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson case, which found segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional, has proven to be a myth. As Rooks make clear in this beguilingly accessible and compelling explanation of how profiteering and ideological interests are assaulting the institution of American public education itself, the forces to restore, maintain, and exacerbate segregation in public schools are alive, well, and thriving. She scrapes away the rhetorical political veneer to expose the gaping holes between aspirational de jure rules of Brown and its tangled de facto reality. Nonetheless, a common, inescapable link that binds these disparate forces is the role that segregation and racism play, overtly and covertly, to make their goals achievable. YetFar too many people consider the act of talking about structural racism—analyzing it, discussing it, or just pointing out that it exists—to be racist in and of itself. As a result, when Black people point out racism, or racism against them is pointed out by others, the default response is often that it can most easily be solved by victims, who simply need to change their beliefs, their frame of reference, and their behavior. Structural forces are largely overlooked.These emerged in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War Reconstruction era to became precedents for their ideological heirs to oppose the Brown decision and their relentless efforts to undermine it. To roll back the gains made by Black communities during Reconstruction, reactionary state legislatures and federal enablers used the law to achieve their goals. Historically, in the South those lines of segregation were fairly easy to detect, especially for sanctimonious non-Southerners. In the North and Midwest, they were easier to ignore. In the past few decades, these structural forces have been aided and abetted by politics and policies incentivized by “racial and economic inequality—and segregation—[to] essentially become business partners of so-called public education in America.” Rooks calls this segrenomics, which is a superstructure of profit-making that manipulate policies and prejudices to enable school segregation. As she makes clear in seven concise chapters, the players and profiteers of segrenomics do not fit into logical, tidy categories of geography, political affiliation, or social reform. The strategy included the creation of benign-sounding organizations. Take, for example, Teach for America (TFA), a program that provides five weeks of training before sending fresh, young college graduates to teach in disadvantaged schools throughout the U.S. for three year stints. Founded by college student Wendy Kopp in 1988, TFA has grown from an “idea [that] just popped into [her] mind” into a multi-million dollar juggernaut funded by corporations, many of which are undermining public education to create and run privatized charter schools, an assault described in detail by Diane Ravitch in The Death and Life of the Great American School System and Reign of Error . While Kopp and her supporters couch the mission of TFA in idealistic language or, to be more precise, public relations and marketing, evidence has shown that few TFA alumni actually stay in the classroom. Many use the experience, as Kopp said, to gave their teachers “an aura of status and selectivity”, to help them get into law and graduate schools and some to become executives and administrators in large for-profit charter school chains. Very few remained in public education, much less the schools they were sent to teach. As Rooks observes, “The vision for the organization says more about how college students would benefit from associating with the nascent organization than about the good they would do in the classroom.” There is no questioning the fact that most who go into TFA do so with idealism. They often come from “backgrounds [where they] believe that their insight, hard work, and will are enough to overcome poverty, social disorder, financial hurdles, and structured inequality” that impact virtually all disadvantaged public schools. One TFA alumnus, Whitney Tilson, went on to become a wealthy hedge fund manager who used his resources to create Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). “Tellingly, its mission was not to explore innovative ways to educate the poor, disenfranchised students, but rather, its mission was ‘to break the teachers unions’ stranglehold over the Democratic Party.’” It does so by making contributions to Democratic candidates for offices from local through federal offices who would support school privatization—draining resources from public education to fund for-profit charters and standardized testing practices—and ally themselves with like-minded Republicans. Terms like “reinvent” and “rethink,” which became essential to their lexicon, shunned experienced teacher and input from the communities that were targeted for takeovers. Democratic leaders like then Newark, New Jersey mayor and current U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker became acolytes of privatizer billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Eli Broad, the Walton Family, John Arnold, and Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education who is using her authority to divert billions of dollars from public to for-profit education. Rooks makes powerful arguments that their philanthropy came with regressive, reactionary, essential building blocks to build the structure of segrenomics. Their money is a classic version of the "wolf in sheep's clothing" cliché. They created other scams like "virtual schools" that replaced teachers and schools with computer screens in people's homes. Overwhelming evidence exists that the most important part of a child's education is a teacher with the resources, environment and training to teach. Virtual schools destroy that paradigm. The growth of the for-profit K-12 corporation, one founded and led by the notorious junk bond king of the 80s who went to prison for his plundering of pension funds, Michael Milkin, has profited billions of dollars from public funds that have been drained from public schools. In Ohio, the Orwellian-named Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) did immeasurable damage and raked in billions before it was shut down and rebranded. It was enabled by corrupt state legislators who, in many cases, profited directly from the public funds they disbursed. In Cutting School, Rooks ties together these and other stories leading to undeniable conclusions that should motivate Americans everywhere to protect and preserve public education. So why, you may ask, if this book is so important and magnificently argued, would I give it four rather than five stars? Well, there were two fundamental weakness that I found which did not correlate to the narrative Rooks intended, one easily corrected and possibly a matter of style, the other head-scratchingly inconsistent. The first was the chapter “Education Dreams and Virtual Nightmares” which examined the legal criminality and record of virtual or online schools. These were made possible in large part through collaboration of Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Yet to read Rooks’ version of it—even though in other parts of the book she documents the roles of groups like TFA and DFER as well as the Obama Administration’s RTTT and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as key enablers of segrenomics—one would come away with the impression that only Republican governors were responsible. Every one mentioned is prefaced by “Republican governor” (except the governor of Utah, where everyone knows “Republican” is a foregone conclusion). Yet former West Virginia governor Bob Wise, who is cited as an ally of former Republican governor Jeb Bush, perhaps the key person behind the virtual schools idea, is not cited as being “Democratic.” Again this is a minor, correctable mistake for future editions and is lessened if one reads the whole book. But if one only read this chapter, it could read as being too uneven and partisan. The second, in my view, unforgivable, baffling mistake was her choice of using “the voices of two young people”, Dwight and Nora, who “are the products of the…apartheid education” chronicled in Cuttting School. Each attended Ivy League schools before before joining TFA for short teaching stints after graduation. While I’m confident that Dwight and Nora are wonderful, gifted, and passionate individuals, using them as examples is all the more puzzling because the are TFA alumni. After all, didn’t Rooks document the bad, destructive example TFA sets for education and the teaching profession? Poorly trained to teach, in some cases idealistic students—mostly graduates of privileged, exclusive private universities—who mostly join TFA to pad their resumés for graduate schools or professions with little or no long-term, professional commitment to the education profession? And the few who remain in education tend to be apparatchiks of the very same billionaire privatizers she rightfully calls out in her book. They are indoctrinated to administer and run charter schools and chains which nourish segrenomics. While Dwight and Nora have obviously learned good and important lessons about what matters to schools and students, based on their words, it doesn’t seem like they aspire to be master teachers. Dwight went on to law school—surely the TFA bona fides helped his application—and now thinks about having “influence one day in politics…and then try to go back to the classroom, teach for a few years, move up the ranks administratively, learn what I need to learn, and then open my own school (emphasis added).” With Nora’s story, it’s unclear is she is now a teacher. But her “goal is not only to develop curriculum that empowers Black girls to achieve academically within whatever school system and environment they’re in, but also come up with radical solutions to change the schools now (emphasis added).” As I read Rooks’ earlier words, it seems clear to me that poorly trained TFA alumni who have “radical solutions” tend to intensify segrenomics, no matter how well-intentioned. The concluding pages of Cutting School diminish its overall effect and impact for me, especially compared to the rhetorical crescendo with which it began. It produced a feeling of what it might be like to listen to Ravel’s Bolero in reverse or ending a Michelin three star meal with a plate of Twinkies. I know teachers exist who would have been more appropriate to amplify the arguments of the book’s narrative. Perhaps Rooks’ long personal experience as a faculty member of Ivy League schools had something to with her choices. But if the relatively few Ivy League graduates who go into education with little more than a short term resume-padding goal are going to be the front lines to fight segrenomics, I fear it will be with us forever and only get worse.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    This book, in many ways, does the critical work for K-12 education that Michelle Alexander does for the criminal justice system. Rooks traces the history of "school choice" to its origins in the rise of segregation and shows how the United States has a consistent history of taking public dollars away from educational spaces where marginalized folks could benefit to spend on public schools of white students or in the case of school-choice, into the pockets of private entities. Some of her best wo This book, in many ways, does the critical work for K-12 education that Michelle Alexander does for the criminal justice system. Rooks traces the history of "school choice" to its origins in the rise of segregation and shows how the United States has a consistent history of taking public dollars away from educational spaces where marginalized folks could benefit to spend on public schools of white students or in the case of school-choice, into the pockets of private entities. Some of her best work is illustrating the depths to which African Americans were denied public education throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, to the point that despite often having little wealth, African American communities would be the economic base to fund the creation of schools. In that way, Rooks' work reminds the reader of the long history of investment and determination in spite of outright legal and economic exploitation that African Americans faced well after slavery. From there, Rook illustrations how school choice has in recent decades still resonated with structural racism, draining cities of resources with often little to show for it besides more distressed communities and wealthier private interests. If you have any stake in education, this is a necessary read to understand that we are continually moving towards a privatized education system that will increasingly perpetuate racial inequality.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    3.5 stars The road necessarily traveled to achieve freedom and equality in the United States leads directly through public education Noliwe Rooks provides a well-researched look into the fallacy of equal opportunity in public education in the United States, arguing that the current move toward privatized educational systems is benefitting investors at the cost of low-income, minority students – a system that Rooks coins as “segrenomics.” The book covers the historical record of educational segreg 3.5 stars The road necessarily traveled to achieve freedom and equality in the United States leads directly through public education Noliwe Rooks provides a well-researched look into the fallacy of equal opportunity in public education in the United States, arguing that the current move toward privatized educational systems is benefitting investors at the cost of low-income, minority students – a system that Rooks coins as “segrenomics.” The book covers the historical record of educational segregation from the de jure segregation of the post-reconstruction era to the de facto segregation of post-Brown v. Board of Education to the present day. Rooks uses each chapter to critique current market-based trends in education, including Teach for America (and its international partners) and the ever-growing system of charter schools, and address policy institutions like “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”, arguing that most of these initiatives have led to greater disenfranchisement and less educational improvement for minority students while lining the pockets of the market - a lot of people are getting rich off of minority students failures. There are plenty of galling accounts in this book – most notably, the many stories Rooks details of parents of minority students paying incredibly steep prices for “stealing:” a better education for their children (eg. Enrolling their children under a false address), and the fact that some school systems actually incentivize parents to rat one another out. Reading these accounts is infuriating and truly hits home how racist and classist and utterly messed up is the system that educates America’s children. At the end of the day, the book is an excellent primer on the subject of inequality in education in America, and how that inequality is made worse as more money is siphoned from the public school system to free-market educational initiatives. It does feel a bit like Rooks scratches the surface in some areas and ignores others (ie. how the system disincentives educators or attracts less than ideal candidates through low pay and overall value of educators in America). But this is such a necessary subject and I am glad to see Rooks has compiled an easy to read overview of some of the more egregious aspects of our current education system - for further reading, there is also the work of Nikole Hannah-Jones (whom Rooks cites many times) and the excellent 1619 Project. We need more of this type of work on this subject. We need to shout it from the rooftops until the system changes (and Betsy De Vos is fired!). Our children depend on it. Thank you netgalley and The New Press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Angela Hiner

    Comprehensive historical look at segregated public education and the philanthropic moves to better underfunded public schools. Well-researched account of presently failing strategies. I heard the author on NPR and wish she had been as argumentative in the book as she was on air.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Gavin

    This book was phenomenal. It gives a thorough and detailed account of the history of the privatization of public schools in the United States.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    A must read if you’re curious about the American public education system, past and present.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sepideh

    I read this book because I was asked "What is the last book you have read by a black woman?" and realized it had been two years. This book is strong when it comes to giving you a deeper background on the history of black education in the US, the history of Teach for America, and the various modern attempts at reforming schools through charter schools and virtual schools. It is weak when it equates white education with quality education. It opens by going after the myth that education does not matt I read this book because I was asked "What is the last book you have read by a black woman?" and realized it had been two years. This book is strong when it comes to giving you a deeper background on the history of black education in the US, the history of Teach for America, and the various modern attempts at reforming schools through charter schools and virtual schools. It is weak when it equates white education with quality education. It opens by going after the myth that education does not matter to black people. It describes the sacrifices that parents made after slavery so their kids could go to school and how the system was frequently stacked against them. There were a limited number of black school districts. The people who were lucky enough to live in those districts were at times paying twice with their money going to their own schools and the white schools nearby. Black students who were never given an opportunity to go to school were seen as unteachable so the politicians delegating funds created a self-fulfilling prophecy by never funding their education. There was some school system, in Alabama, where the black schools were funded by the poll tax. Rooks discusses how we still have a separate and unequal education system. She describes charters as an experiment run on poor black and Latino kids in poor schools. These schools are a way to remove accountability and lose control of the funds that are supposed to be spent on education to various people who are administrating the charters without deep examination of whether the charters really are succeeding. She also describes school virtualization as a way governments use to cut their education costs without any real evidence that this technique works either. Rooks gets into the history of Teach for America in this book. The founders were Ivy League educated people who were connected to organizations that could fund this idea, but they had no experience with the types of places where they wanted to teach. They send college graduates with about five weeks of training into classrooms where the kids may have issues related to poverty and hunger, and the teachers do not necessarily have experience or even knowledge of these issues. Part of the problem with more money being thrown at education is that when the people providing the funds bring together people with the leadership of the schools, they never bring in people like the parents or the teachers into the process. This leads to a lot of the funds being sucked up by consultants and management with not much going to the actual schools like what happened when Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to Newark Schools. The author also describes some successful black teachers like Liller Green and Marva Collins. Unfortunately, it sounds like Liller Green's school went downhill after her death and was recently torn down. One chapter is devoted to the people who get prosecuted for sending their kids to schools in the wrong districts, and the penalties they face for those crimes. At the end of the book, it wraps around to some people who did well despite their schools and how they went into Teach for America with an understanding of where their students were coming from. The significance of the NAACP in helping people from losing their access to a better education is described in this book as well.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    My partner had read this book previously, and I decided to read it after hearing Rooks on a podcast (Radical Bureaucrat). Rooks has written a book that is smart, critical, and accessible. I think it has supplanted Dale Russakoff's "The Prize" as the first book I would recommend to any general-interest reader wanting to learn more about the recent history of education reform. Both books are skeptical of the mainstream of education reform, but Rooks's is more comprehensive and does more to connect My partner had read this book previously, and I decided to read it after hearing Rooks on a podcast (Radical Bureaucrat). Rooks has written a book that is smart, critical, and accessible. I think it has supplanted Dale Russakoff's "The Prize" as the first book I would recommend to any general-interest reader wanting to learn more about the recent history of education reform. Both books are skeptical of the mainstream of education reform, but Rooks's is more comprehensive and does more to connect key aspects of today's movement to a history stretching back to the earliest years of public education in the United States. A couple of main takeaways from the book: First, the current wave of "no excuses" test-prep-focused charter schools are part of a long tradition of applying different educational approaches to poor students and students of color, stretching back to the movement for vocational education for Black students during the Progressive era. Rooks observes that policymakers have long used disadvantaged student populations as opportunities to experiment. She argues that this continues at least in part because the continued existence of segregated and underserved student populations is a source of potential profits for corporations, citing for example the rise of "virtual charters." Second, while empirical evidence on the efficacy of different educational strategies is generally mixed, integration is one approach that has consistently been found to be effective, yet was more or less abandoned in the 1970s and has never been returned to the policy agenda--again, perhaps in part because of the profit incentives I mentioned above. Third, the current ed-reform movement tends to be uninterested in listening to the voices of the students, educators, and communities that it ostensibly is intended to serve--demonstrated for example in its focus on districts that are under state or mayoral control as opposed to those under more traditional democratic governance structures. Rooks pushes back on this trend in part by incorporating some of these voices into her own book. My one critique of the book is that Rooks often uses language in something like the following form (my paraphrase/example): "While some in the movement are certainly motivated by a sincere desire to help poor students, many are motivated by the significant profits to be made." What I'm identifying here is the structure of "some good/others bad," as contrasted to a characterization that recognizes that we are all motivated by a mix of motives, both conscious and unconscious. I think the "some/others" construction encourages people to sort themselves into categories, and of course we are all inclined to sort ourselves into the "good" category. I see the alternative characterization as preferable because it encourages all of us to think about the ways, both conscious and not, that we may be influenced by structural forces that don't align with our values--and to think about what we can do to alter those structures.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Noliwe Rooks confronts the real reasons charter schools were invented, to resegregate public schools and turn the schools of minorities into profit making centers. It’s poor school districts which are being closed and the tax money of those citizens being used to make profits for the wealthy. Standardized testing uses public money in the billions to reinforce that the well off and educated have superior children and minorities don’t. The author makes good comments but doesn’t take her arguments Noliwe Rooks confronts the real reasons charter schools were invented, to resegregate public schools and turn the schools of minorities into profit making centers. It’s poor school districts which are being closed and the tax money of those citizens being used to make profits for the wealthy. Standardized testing uses public money in the billions to reinforce that the well off and educated have superior children and minorities don’t. The author makes good comments but doesn’t take her arguments deeper. Her real focus are African American students. Latinos are mentioned but their needs such as linguistic differences are unaddressed. A weak point in her argument is on the Coda where she holds up Teach for America, makes a passing shot at a bad teacher who had tenure and explains that although the TFA educators lacked training, they had personal devotion that overcame their lack of knowledge. So Rooks opposes some education reformers’ beliefs but embraces others, most without any research to back it up. Rooks is on the right track but hasn’t arrived at the station.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    Another hard-to-read book because of its harsh and painful reality. The author, an age contemporary, was experiencing segregation/integration's intersection about 50 miles north of my own experience. As an educator, I appreciate how this book describes the gross inequality of our current public school system and how we got to this place.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    Rooks coins the term “segrenomics”—the practice of making money from the continued segregation of schools by race and socioeconomic status. Convincing less affluent families that they must be educated differently has birthed many organizations and companies funded completely by this lie. I will be referring to this book more for reference. It is chock full of research.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chris Stewart

    A scandalously dishonest book that uses heavy handed political language and ideology in place of scholarship and research.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Justina

    This was an informative, well-written, and comprehensive book. I found a LOT to agree with. In my opinion, private elementary and EVEN secondary schools have always had additional help and funding, when it was NOT as needed as those given to public schools. The recent events related to COVID 19 have really made this clearer than ever. Schools have been COMPLETELY shut down, teachers have been laid off, and many schools have not been bailed out. In the book, the author talks about deregulation and This was an informative, well-written, and comprehensive book. I found a LOT to agree with. In my opinion, private elementary and EVEN secondary schools have always had additional help and funding, when it was NOT as needed as those given to public schools. The recent events related to COVID 19 have really made this clearer than ever. Schools have been COMPLETELY shut down, teachers have been laid off, and many schools have not been bailed out. In the book, the author talks about deregulation and privatizing, and educational apartheid. Public education has been completely impacted when public dollars are funneled to for-profit schools. It is important to save urban schools. This book was good to read b/c for me, equal opportunity always seemed like a buzz word, but when it came down to the statistics, reading the book showed me that the figures and data do NOT point to equal opportunity. As a counter argument, I did read some research that some private schools are relatively inexpensive and do put dollars to good use, suggesting that students reap benefits from private-school choice programs. Furthermore, there are about 5 million students who go to K-12 private schools, so if they got rid of private schools completely, there would be a negative impact, as well (one of about $20 billion a year.) Overall, the book argues that the best reform strategy for schools is to have integration. After reading this book, I believe Congress should help local school systems with aid for public school systems, with positive models.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Whitley

    In Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education, Noliwe Rooks explores how education, race, and class intersect in the public education system and how the current system thrives on inequality and segregation at the expense of black and poor students. The author details how charter schools, virtual schools, TFA, and similar organizations have found financial success in preying on black and low income communities, also known as “segrenomics”. In the book “segrenomics In Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education, Noliwe Rooks explores how education, race, and class intersect in the public education system and how the current system thrives on inequality and segregation at the expense of black and poor students. The author details how charter schools, virtual schools, TFA, and similar organizations have found financial success in preying on black and low income communities, also known as “segrenomics”. In the book “segrenomics” is defined as profiting from racial and economic segregation. From Reconstruction to the present day, Rooks delves deeply into the ways in which the American public education system was designed to segregate black students and provide them a separate and and most importantly an unequal education. She also outlines how public schools have vigorously fought and continue to fight to maintain an unequal schooling and funding system for black students, even in the face of laws such as Brown vs. The Board of Education. Rooks also notes the proliferation of charter schools, virtual schools, vouchers, TFA, etc. in poor and black communities, also known as “school choice”. While “school choice” may seem like a good alternative to failing schools and school districts, these options prey on the fears of black and poor students, parents, and communities, while netting millions of dollars a year for businesses, organizations, etc. All at the expense of our poorest students who can least afford it. Not to mention the dismal test scores and plundering and siphoning of funds from public schools, which are just a few of the consequences of the school choice trend. This is an excellent resource for people who are unsure or uneducated on how systemic racism works and how it is ingrained in the very fiber of America, including the public school system. As with all books similar to this, the problems are clear and plentiful while the solutions are hazy and lacking. However, Rooks does make some suggestions to tackling this problem such as full integration, tighter laws and regulations for charter and virtual schools, and activism. She attempts to end the book on a high note by highlighting the stories of two previously low income black students turned successful teachers. Nevertheless, the book leaves the reader feeling somewhat helpless and hopeless as to the future of our children and our country.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    If you have ever wondered why wealthy white families don't send their kids to charter schools, or suspect that Teach for America and the charter school "movement" may have ulterior motives, it's all laid out here for you. After a brief but intensely informative survey of the history of free public school, school integration, and successful alternative school movements by black people for black people, Rooks turns to a blistering and data-driven assault on the current state of public education an If you have ever wondered why wealthy white families don't send their kids to charter schools, or suspect that Teach for America and the charter school "movement" may have ulterior motives, it's all laid out here for you. After a brief but intensely informative survey of the history of free public school, school integration, and successful alternative school movements by black people for black people, Rooks turns to a blistering and data-driven assault on the current state of public education and education "reform". She states up front that it's her belief that the best education for poor black and brown children is found in integrated traditional public schools with fair funding models, not in systems deliberately designed to divert taxpayer education money to private corporations. Before reading this book I was sure I knew why school vouchers were bad (removing taxpayer funding from public schools and directing them towards private, primarily religious schools and others who discriminate and indoctrinate), but I was completely unaware how much profit there was to be had in the Teach for America and charter school models directed towards "saving" supposedly uneducable students, and the complete farce of the rhetoric that convinces families that they are doing their children a favor by "choosing" this type of education [and then blames the students and their families when the education doesn't work]. I came away absolutely sick to my stomach and horrified at the waste of money and abuse of an innocent generation just so a few people could make a buck.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chari Regina

    I THOUGHT I understood the American school system. This book is not the first to take a look at the intersection of class, race and education but it may well be the best. Noliwe Rooks is brilliant. Full stop. What she has created here takes her in depth research and her assessment of the current and history education system and she helps us, the reader, figure out where we stand. This book is well researched and Noliwe Rooks proves her brilliance as a writer because the book is intriguing and eng I THOUGHT I understood the American school system. This book is not the first to take a look at the intersection of class, race and education but it may well be the best. Noliwe Rooks is brilliant. Full stop. What she has created here takes her in depth research and her assessment of the current and history education system and she helps us, the reader, figure out where we stand. This book is well researched and Noliwe Rooks proves her brilliance as a writer because the book is intriguing and engaging when it could be dry. The historical accounts here didn't feel like reading a history book, they felt like someone who cared was recounting an important and meaningful narrative. If even a portion of these stories are accurate (and it certainly seems they are) then we are in trouble. This indictment of the education system demands that we know the truth and that we do better. This book is wonderful in all ways and still painful to get through. I couldn't read it as quickly as I wanted to because I had to take breaks to process what I was (unlearning and) learning. This is a book you will want to absorb. Rooks also gives us a well researched and deep assessment of the current academic trends and the dangerous path our schools are on. If you care about education in any way whether a parent, educator, current or former student, administrator or as someone who will one day have a child in the education system YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. If you care about social justice you must read this book. If you care about racial inequality you must read this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have been locked in for the coronavirus, as all schools (and most businesses) are closed. In this time, I have grown increasingly anxious about online instruction, the gaps between what my students have access to compared to what my own kids have access to, how this whole virus is laying bare the inequities that I see every day--and also how I'm going to teach online and manage my own children's learning at home. So naturally I picked this book back up and finished it in a day. Helpfully, I pic I have been locked in for the coronavirus, as all schools (and most businesses) are closed. In this time, I have grown increasingly anxious about online instruction, the gaps between what my students have access to compared to what my own kids have access to, how this whole virus is laying bare the inequities that I see every day--and also how I'm going to teach online and manage my own children's learning at home. So naturally I picked this book back up and finished it in a day. Helpfully, I picked back up right at the chapter on virtual education, and how it really really doesn't work for our most vulnerable students, even when there isn't a pandemic ramping up fear and anxiety around the globe. I read this book as part of Clear the Air (https://cleartheaireducation.wordpres...), a free online PD program run about social justice and education. The Zoom conversation with Noliwe Rooks was AMAZING. And this book was also amazing. The two together were inspiring and crushing. I can think of no better primer on the history of segregated education in America than this book. The chapter on Brown v. Board of Education should be required reading for everyone in education in this country--so pretty much everyone, given that we all have to move through the education system. I'll conclude here by saying this book did nothing to make me feel better about working for a charter school.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erin Dodge

    Really fantastic book about school segregation and the systems and history behind it. Rooks shows clearly that America has never actually had de-segregated schooling in our entire history, and that it is getting worse with the rise of Charter Schools and other systems which eviscerate funding and resources for Black schools, while exploiting Black children as guinea pigs for educational experiments and profit-motivated schooling models. Rooks describes how multiple systems turn ENORMOUS profits o Really fantastic book about school segregation and the systems and history behind it. Rooks shows clearly that America has never actually had de-segregated schooling in our entire history, and that it is getting worse with the rise of Charter Schools and other systems which eviscerate funding and resources for Black schools, while exploiting Black children as guinea pigs for educational experiments and profit-motivated schooling models. Rooks describes how multiple systems turn ENORMOUS profits off of privatization and segregation, gutting the supposed equalizer of opportunity that is a good public school system for all. She also talks about over-Policing, underfunding, and criminalizing Black and Latinx youth, and the White politicians and parents who go to great lengths to avoid sending White kids to school with Black children (especially the hypocrisy of Northern, Liberal White people) Urgent and infuriating read- ends with a description of student-and-community-led activism and courage.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    Important read. Loved the major shade Rooks throws and truth bombs she consistently drops wrapped in well researched and engaging writing as she exposes the way that history and current efforts to improve educational outcomes for children of color and economically disadvantaged communities have often protected and benefitted the privileged. Often in scandalous ways. “If insanity really can be defined as the committed repetition of failed behaviors with the expectation each and every time that th Important read. Loved the major shade Rooks throws and truth bombs she consistently drops wrapped in well researched and engaging writing as she exposes the way that history and current efforts to improve educational outcomes for children of color and economically disadvantaged communities have often protected and benefitted the privileged. Often in scandalous ways. “If insanity really can be defined as the committed repetition of failed behaviors with the expectation each and every time that the outcome might be different, then there are quite a few involved with the education reform movement whose actions must surely demand professional evaluation.” I read this book through the lens of an educator who has worked both in charter schools and traditional districts, but I think it has implications for all members of a community- policy makers, legislators, parents, community organizers, and the justice system.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Ellis

    Excellent account of how this country has shortchanged black education. What is especially egregious is how the South made black citizens fund white schools as well as their own while losing out on thousands of dollars. I found the sections on virtual charters and "stealing services" to be particularly harrowing. Wealthy and middle-class parents are too possessive and greedy about their own child's education. It's sickening how people's empathy rarely extends beyond their own blood. Nothing will Excellent account of how this country has shortchanged black education. What is especially egregious is how the South made black citizens fund white schools as well as their own while losing out on thousands of dollars. I found the sections on virtual charters and "stealing services" to be particularly harrowing. Wealthy and middle-class parents are too possessive and greedy about their own child's education. It's sickening how people's empathy rarely extends beyond their own blood. Nothing will change until people view the common good as central to their lives. Education, like jobs and health care, is not a privilege but a right. We need to educate all students on the history of education in this country, not look for quick fixes from the private sector, incentivize the best teachers to work in the toughest schools, fund schools equally, and require all schools in a district to take the same percentage of ELLs, students with special needs, etc.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    I can't think of anyone I know who reads books who wouldn't get a lot out of this one. Each chapter presents another aspect of what the author calls the segrenomics of American education--the economic benefit to the few of the decrease in access to quality education for the many, especially low income people of color. I think this fits into a general pattern in US society of racism. Institutional antiblackness provides a justification for policies that dismantle public education, harming black c I can't think of anyone I know who reads books who wouldn't get a lot out of this one. Each chapter presents another aspect of what the author calls the segrenomics of American education--the economic benefit to the few of the decrease in access to quality education for the many, especially low income people of color. I think this fits into a general pattern in US society of racism. Institutional antiblackness provides a justification for policies that dismantle public education, harming black children & all children. The reason I would recommend this widely is that the chapters are short and punchy with a lot of individual stories mixed in with the analysis of broader trends. I particularly liked the breakdown of all the cases that were part of Brown v. Board of Education, the discussion of the alliance of Betsy DeVos and Jeb Bush in promoting virtual charter schools, and the descriptions of some of the educational strategies students have found effective.

  25. 5 out of 5

    LovGov

    This is the first book I finished on my Corona virus break. As I'm listening to school districts toy around with the idea of online education, and I myself am a part-time online educator, this book was the swift kick in the butt that I needed to read. Rooks marches through arguments against online education, and how it underserves many students. I can speak from experience that online education has a real lapse and accountability for many students. I love the fact that Rooks talks about the hist This is the first book I finished on my Corona virus break. As I'm listening to school districts toy around with the idea of online education, and I myself am a part-time online educator, this book was the swift kick in the butt that I needed to read. Rooks marches through arguments against online education, and how it underserves many students. I can speak from experience that online education has a real lapse and accountability for many students. I love the fact that Rooks talks about the history of education in Black America. It's an eye-opening read that will be my first foray into this corner of history. Most importantly, she turns the lens on the use of charter schools and standardized testing to illustrate exactly why these institutions are harmful to BIPOC communities... And how it's an extension of something she refers to is segronomics. I think every teacher should take a minute to read it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie Anderson

    This was not an easy book to read, as it details the systemic racial and economic segregation of schools starting in the Reconstruction era and following through to the policies and actions of recent and current presidents. It is, however, important reading because we can't work to fix problems that we don't understand the depth of. Rooks calls out the issues and sugarcoats nothing, and I wish more people involved in education and educational policy making would read this book. It reads like a d This was not an easy book to read, as it details the systemic racial and economic segregation of schools starting in the Reconstruction era and following through to the policies and actions of recent and current presidents. It is, however, important reading because we can't work to fix problems that we don't understand the depth of. Rooks calls out the issues and sugarcoats nothing, and I wish more people involved in education and educational policy making would read this book. It reads like a dissertation sometimes, particularly with chapter introductions and conclusions that tend to be repetitive, but the upside of this is that it doesn't allow the reader to "not get" what each chapter is about. I'm glad I read this book, as a former teacher, as a public school parent, and as a human being who wants to see changes made for students of color.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kate Morgan

    Wow - this book was amazing. I love books that teach me more about my privilege and place in this world, and "Cutting School" by Noliwe Rooks did just that. This book describes segregation that schools still face in today's society. This book discusses the financing behind and how the education system "benefits" from segregation, all whilst undermining and ignoring black and marginalized voices in the classroom. I loved the conversation surrounding the transformation of the classroom from privat Wow - this book was amazing. I love books that teach me more about my privilege and place in this world, and "Cutting School" by Noliwe Rooks did just that. This book describes segregation that schools still face in today's society. This book discusses the financing behind and how the education system "benefits" from segregation, all whilst undermining and ignoring black and marginalized voices in the classroom. I loved the conversation surrounding the transformation of the classroom from privatization to public education, and the parallels between The New Jim Crow did for the prison industrial complex, mass incarceration, and the war on drugs. 5/5 stars on goodreads. I highly recommend this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    This was a very interesting book about the historical roots and consequences of inadequate education for minority communities and how it is being used as a cash cow for private entities. Going back to the era of Reconstruction after the Civil War throughout the current day and age of unfettered charter school expansion and school "choice," the book investigates the alarming realities in many communities as well as the few success stories. As a teacher in one of the featured communities, I see ma This was a very interesting book about the historical roots and consequences of inadequate education for minority communities and how it is being used as a cash cow for private entities. Going back to the era of Reconstruction after the Civil War throughout the current day and age of unfettered charter school expansion and school "choice," the book investigates the alarming realities in many communities as well as the few success stories. As a teacher in one of the featured communities, I see many of the problems mentioned and while there are common sense solutions to many of these problems, the money is never there but instead is being provided for charter schools. An interesting book book with some common sense solutions!

  29. 5 out of 5

    David

    A sobering look at the state of education of minority students in America. Inner city schools are underfunded and the answer of the government is to close them and privatize education. The result is a massive giveaway of public funds to promote charter schools and vouchers which enable the wealthy to escape to private or specialized schools, but leave the poor without adequate education. The author calls us to recognize that public education is one of the foundations of American society that has A sobering look at the state of education of minority students in America. Inner city schools are underfunded and the answer of the government is to close them and privatize education. The result is a massive giveaway of public funds to promote charter schools and vouchers which enable the wealthy to escape to private or specialized schools, but leave the poor without adequate education. The author calls us to recognize that public education is one of the foundations of American society that has truly set us apart from other countries and made us great. The abandonment of the education of the poor will have tremendous negative consequences for our future. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    I couldn't get past the preface. Every other sentence contained the word white, black, or colored. Her grandma was a maid, "sometimes for white people"??? They live on the border of "two white supremacist states"??? Black students this, white people that. I'm interested in doing my part to help figure out how we (as Americans) can address and fix the severely broken public school system in this country, which is how this book ended up in my hands. Bitter, angry, bigoted garbage like this doesn't I couldn't get past the preface. Every other sentence contained the word white, black, or colored. Her grandma was a maid, "sometimes for white people"??? They live on the border of "two white supremacist states"??? Black students this, white people that. I'm interested in doing my part to help figure out how we (as Americans) can address and fix the severely broken public school system in this country, which is how this book ended up in my hands. Bitter, angry, bigoted garbage like this doesn't help anyone or anything. Fortunately there are hundreds of respectable, scholarly, factual books available so no needs to waste their precious time or money on this nonsense.

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