How Schools Work

An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation's Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education

How Schools Work

“This book merits every American’s serious consideration” (Vice President Joe Biden): from the Secretary of Education under President Obama, an exposé of the status quo that helps maintain a broken system at the expense of our kids’ education, and threatens our nation’s future.

“Education runs on lies. That’s probably not what you’d expect from a former Secretary of Education, but it’s the truth.” So opens Arne Duncan’s How Schools Work, although the title could just as easily be How American Schools Work for Some, Not for Others, and Only Now and Then for Kids.

Drawing on nearly three decades in education—from his mother’s after-school program on Chicago’s South Side to his tenure as Secretary of Education in Washington, DC—How Schools Work follows Arne (as he insists you call him) as he takes on challenges at every turn: gangbangers in Chicago housing projects, parents who call him racist, teachers who insist they can’t help poor kids, unions that refuse to modernize, Tea Partiers who call him an autocrat, affluent white progressive moms who hate yearly tests, and even the NRA, which once labeled Arne the “most extreme anti-gun member of President Obama’s Cabinet.” Going to a child’s funeral every couple of weeks, as he did when he worked in Chicago, will do that to a person.

How Schools Work exposes the lies that have caused American kids to fall behind their international peers, from early childhood all the way to college graduation rates. But it also identifies what really does make a school work.

“As insightful as it is inspiring” (Washington Book Review), How Schools Work will embolden parents, teachers, voters, and even students to demand more of our public schools. If America is going to be great, then we can accept nothing less.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501173059 | 
  • August 2018
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About the Author

Arne Duncan
Andy Goodwin Photography

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan was one of the longest serving members of President Barack Obama’s cabinet and among the most influential Secretaries of Education in history. He has spent nearly three decades across all levels of education, from his mother’s afterschool program on Chicago’s Southside to CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. He currently sits on the board of Communities in Schools. 

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