PERSONAL: Male. Education: Graduate of Yale University; Mount S. Mary's College, teaching certificate. Hobbies and other interests: Skiing, cycling, outdoors.
CAREER: Writer. Former teacher and reporter for Oakland Tribune, Oakland, CA.
AWARDS, HONORS: Open Society Institute fellowship.
Hard Lessons: The Promise of an Inner-City Charter School, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Jonathan Schorr was first a teacher, then a journalist who writes about education. His articles have been published in prominent mainstream, educational, and progressive periodicals. Schorr's Hard Lessons: The Promise of an Inner-City Charter School studies the ongoing effort by teachers, parents, and the poor Oakland community in which E. C. Reems Academy is located to improve the education of their children.
Reems, one of more than 2,000 charter schools in the United States, was established in 1999 through the nonprofit School Futures. The children who made up the student body were so behind that some in the fourth and fifth grades couldn't write recognizable English. Even though the school's first year was difficult, with threats of being shut down because of the mishandling of paperwork, it survived, but it continued to struggle to educate students with low scores in a population with a large number of immigrants and homeless. In addition, lack of funds prevented the school from providing adequate tools and teaching materials.
Booklist's David Carr called Schorr "a warm and graceful writer" and the book "a story that measures out hope in teaspoons, and frustration by the cup."
Mother Jones contributor Blair Campbell wrote that Schorr's study of the charter school is unexpected, offering "vividly rendered heroes and villains, gripping plot twists, and a nail-biting climax."
Colman McCarthy, who reviewed Hard Lessons in the Washington Post Book World, wrote that the book demonstrates that those who are working to lift children out of poverty through education are "too often . . . not supported or appreciated—least of all by those who offer opinions about public school reform while putting their own children in private schools." McCarthy called Schorr "a partisan who wants charter schools to succeed."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2002, David Carr, review of Hard Lessons: The Promise of an Inner-City Charter School, p. 1898.
Mother Jones, September-October, 2002, Blair Campbell, review of Hard Lessons.
Publishers Weekly, June 3, 2002, review of Hard Lessons, p. 74.
Washington Post Book World, August 25, 2002, Colman McCarthy, review of Hard Lessons, p. 4.
Hard Lessons Home Page,http://www.hardlessons.com/ (February 28, 2003).