Book Alert: Leading for Equity


Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools, a self­-described “celebration” of the Montgomery County Public Schools, a 140,000-­student behemoth in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, is no doubt meant to add the district to the list of superstar systems worthy of national attention. No longer an exclusive enclave of affluence, the county has witnessed an influx of poor and minority stu­dents over the past quar­ter century. Ten years ago, Superin­tendent Jerry Weast divided the system into the leafy “Green Zone,” which he mostly (and benignly) ignored, and the struggling “Red Zone,” where he poured new resources, staff, and “capacity.” Test scores in the Red Zone are up, as is participation in Advancement Place­ment courses. The authors of this book (Stacey M. Childress, Denis P. Doyle, and David A. Thomas) see much worth lauding, though one wishes for more of a critical eye. What to make of the white­ black SAT test­-score gap, for instance, which is bigger than ever? And is any of this replic­able, anyway? Weast’s spending spree was enabled by the hous­ing bubble, which pushed local prop­erty values—and property taxes— sky high, along with a liberal population willing to see its burgeon­ing tax revenue siphoned off to help needy students. For better or worse, history might show the “Leading for Equity” story to be a once-­in­-a­-life­time opportunity, not a model for others to emulate.

For more about this book,  you can read a longer review I wrote here.  And for some sharp comments from readers, see see “Jerry Weast and his many detractors” on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog.

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