Best Ed Books of the Decade

by Robert Pondiscio
August 31st, 2010

Education Next has a terrific poll, sure to be hotly contested, on the best education book of the past decade.  E.D. Hirsch’s The Knowledge Deficit is among the41 finalists.  So is Dan Willingham’s Why Student’s Don’t Like School. 

Other great choices made by Ed Next’s editors:  Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System; Richard Kahlenberg’s Albert Shaker bio, Tough Liberal; Tested by Linda Perlstein; Daniel Koretz’s Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us; Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough; and David Whitman’s Sweating the Small Stuff.

Great books, difficult choice: the poll lets you pick three favorites


  1. I wonder who’s voting in that poll . . . I wouldn’t expect the Ed Next readership to put Darling-Hammond, Meier, and Ravitch’s screed as their top three.

    Comment by Stuart Buck — August 31, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  2. Who’s voting?

    Oh, probably all those bottom-of-the-barrel unionized teachers, parents who believe their public schools are pretty good (based on unreliable, first-hand observation), folks disenchanted with market solutions for improving teacher quality, deluded citizens who believe that other nations provide us better strategic models for ratcheting up student achievement than VAM and shame–people like that.

    Personally, I voted for Koretz’s book–as clear an explanation as exists of why our “scientific” approach to accountability and assessment is based on a foundation of sand.

    I agree with Robert that Education Next has done us a great service by identifying 41 terrific, challenging books–and putting the poll out there to the unwashed.

    Comment by Nancy Flanagan — August 31, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

  3. I can’t believe Clayton Christiansen’s book got nominated. While his thesis is an interesting one, it has to be one of the most poorly-written ed policy books I’ve ever read. What it reminds me of is a management consultant’s report filled with buzzwords and jargon (not surprisingly Dr. Christensen used to work for Boston Consulting Group). It would’ve been much better had someone else gone through the draft and re-written it in plain English. I found it very tiresome to have to stop constantly to figure out what exactly the author actually meant by all the convoluted gobbledygook. Throwing buzzwords and jargon into nearly every sentence doesn’t make the author look smarter, just much less coherent!

    Comment by Crimson Wife — August 31, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

  4. Stuart,

    Your post was interesting, especially if you look at the current ratings. As of 8/31, Darling-Hammond, Meier, and Ravitch are right there with Ravitch’s book considerably out front.

    Makes me believe the readership (teachers) is living up to form.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — August 31, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

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