Praise for


The Promise of an Inner-City Charter School


“Jonathan Schorr’s HARD LESSONS is a thoughtful and intimate examination of the competing dreams and challenges faced by one community seeking a better way to educate its children.  It will illuminate the current national debate about how to create schools where every child is expected and enabled to achieve and succeed.”

— MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN, President, Children’s Defense Fund


 “This is the best book ever written about the single most interesting change in American education in the last ten years… You cannot understand our kids' futures without reading Hard Lessons.”

— JAY MATHEWS, The Washington Post


“A fresh and important ground-level look inside the most important movement in education today. By getting to know teachers and students, Schorr deftly takes charter schools out of the realm of abstraction and makes them real.”      



“Vividly rendered heroes and villains, gripping plot twists, and a nail-biting climax are not what you’d expect from a case study of a charter school.  But Jonathan Schorr… delivers just that.”

Mother Jones


“I started listing the people to whom I wanted to give this book, then stopped when I realized I wanted to give it to everyone.  Schorr’s unsentimental but deeply humane account of the promise and problems of charter schools is not only a shrewd analysis of what makes them work, what makes them fail and what they need to succeed, but a hold-your-breath drama populated with unforgettable characters who will linger in your mind and break your heart.  With the eye and reporting skills of a first-class journalist and story-telling worthy of a novelist, Schorr has produced one knock-out of a book.”

— JUDITH VIORST, Author, Necessary Losses, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


“Charter schools may be the single most important education reform of the past twenty years. In this beautifully written book, Jonathan Schorr takes us through this world from the inside. You won't put it down, and you won't forget it.”

— DAVID OSBORNE, Coauthor of Reinventing Government, Banishing Bureaucracy, and The Reinventor's Fieldbook


“First rate, passionate, and vivid. Schorr's honesty is a reminder to all who want to start a charter school how tough it is but how great the rewards.”

— BRUNO V. MANNO, Senior Associate for Education, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Coauthor of Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education


“Every generation has needed its own storytellers to record  America’s chronic inability to create just schools for deserving communities.  Following the model of such empathic and articulate eyewitnesses as George Dennison and Jonathan Kozol, Schorr provides highly detailed observations of an Oakland charter school, the E.C. Reems Academy.  Like all educational stories, this one has the essential mix of ingredients…  Schorr is a warm and graceful writer with all of the right sensitivities for perceiving this mix and understanding its ambiguities.”          



“HARD LESSONS should be read by anyone who thinks that starting charter schools is easy, and by anyone who doesn't believe in their promise.”

— DEBORAH STIPEK, Dean, Stanford University School of Education

“Hard Lessons is a reportorial tour de force, an acutely sensitive portrayal of the day-to-day challenges of teaching schoolchildren, and an honest-to-God page turner.  Amid all the slogan-rich cant of modern educational debate, Schorr has done an extraordinary job of explaining, without polemic from either side, how very difficult it is to start new schools for kids who have been misused by the system for a long time.   This a suspenseful, richly nuanced book that caught me up in the unfolding drama of its memorable cast of characters even as it was helping me understand how much most of us still have to learn about the tough realities of urban public education.”

   CYNTHIA GORNEY, Associate Dean, Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley


“Jonathan Schorr's book is a must-read for anyone looking for insight into the civil rights issue of our time.  His account of the battle for school reform takes you into the homes, the classrooms and lives of those in the front line struggles to deliver a decent education to our most needy children. The scope of his book is enormous.  His research and command of the material inspiring.   As America rushes to embrace charter schools, we should all pause to read this book.”

— NOEL CISNEROS, Journalist, KRON-Channel 4, Oakland/San Francisco


“With a sharp reporter's eye for details, facts and context, Schorr brings to life an educational scene often left for dead by distant policymakers.”

— COLMAN McCARTHY, Washington Post Book World


“Schorr …nicely evokes the promise of and challenges faced by those who would start charter schools, as well as the dreams and desperation of those who entrust their children to these new educational institutions. Neither of the schools that Schorr followed did a good job of getting off the ground, and this is very much a warts-and-all report on them. But he matches their stories with a clear-eyed view of the potential of charter schools as a (partial) solution to the problems of urban education, and ends with sage policy ideas for maximizing the return on that potential... It's a well-written, emotions-tapping, human-interest tale with heroes, villains and all the rest.”

— CHESTER E. FINN, Jr., Fellow, Manhattan Institute; President, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation


Necessary reading for anyone interested in effective education.”

The (Oregon) Journal-Statesman


“Schorr's reporting is exhaustive, and he manages to capture the chaos and confusion of starting a new school… Anyone interested in fully understanding the burgeoning charter school movement, in getting beyond the extremes of hype and skepticism, will learn a lot from this hopeful, yet cautionary, tale.”

The San Jose Mercury News