(Not the DaVinci Dan Brown)
With the naked idealism of someone who just graduated from NYU's film school, Dan Brown jumps into teaching a 4th grade classroom in the Bronx. It is a moving and heartwrenching month by month look at a first year teacher's struggles and triumphs. His energy and effort is stymied by the administration who essentially set him up to fail. But he doesn't. Because of his film school background, the book reads like a documentary film. You can picture the people and the setting so clearly, it's as if you are watching the book instead of reading it. I found his writing style to be compelling for this reason.
Up until the end, I would have given it 4.5 stars. The last chapter is a mish mash of slamming No Child Left Behind (of which I'm no fan, but it has no place here) and contrasting his school with a $27K tuition private school. It just reeked of manipulation and seemed unfair - like comparing apples to tarte tatin. Plus the author is still only 25, and his idealism remains intact. His call to action is genuine, but with no tangible solutions offered, it's just left floating. When books end poorly, I feel like I need to deduct 1/2 a star. It was still worth reading, for sure.
I think a solid companion to Dan Brown's book is Tested by Linda Perlstein, which examines the teach-to-the-test issues of an elementary school in Annapolis, MD.
And a question for the teachers...if you are willing to share. What will it take to improve schools, especially those that are struggling?