The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools? (Paperback)
A New York Times Notable Book · A Best Book of the Year, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Publishers Weekly · A Best History Book of 2015, Amazon · Finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize · Finalist for the Bernstein Award · Winner of the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance Authors Award
“Impeccably researched . . . Russakoff pulls readers in with richly drawn real-world characters.” — Atlantic
“Stunning . . . Russakoff’s narrative is rich with details and anecdotes that showcase the quality of her writing and bring Newark to life.” — Chicago Tribune
When Mark Zuckerberg announced his $100 million pledge to transform the Newark schools and create an education model that could be applied to any city in the nation, it looked like a huge win for New Jersey politicians Cory Booker and Chris Christie. But their plan met the opposition of Newark’s key education players, who were fiercely protective of their billion-dollar-a-year system — a prize that, for generations, had enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark’s students. With deeply drawn portraits of everyone from the philanthropists throwing millions at a haphazard plan, to the teachers fighting to reach students damaged by extreme poverty and violence, The Prize is a riveting account of the complexities and challenges that face all of America’s failing schools.
“Russakoff provides insights that should prove useful both to contemporary school reformers and to citizens hoping to understand their efforts.” — Washington Post
“A moving and thought-provoking book . . . Invaluable.” — New York Times
About the Author
Dale Russakoff spent twenty-eight years as a reporter for the Washington Post, covering politics, education, social policy, and other topics. The Prize, serialized in The New Yorker, is her first book. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
A New York Times Bestseller
“A brilliantly reported behind-the-scenes account of one city’s attempt to right its failing public schools. . . .Russakoff maintains a cleareyed distance, her observations penetratingly honest and incisive to what she sees and what she hears. I suspect some may have regretted letting Russakoff in. We couldn’t have asked for a better guide. . . . THE PRIZE is paradoxically a sobering yet exhilarating tale. For alongside the stories of those calling the shots, Russakoff tells the stories of those most profoundly affected by their decisions: teachers, students and their parents. . . . I repeatedly found myself writing in the margins, ‘Wow,’ either because of the heroic efforts by teachers and staffers or because of the obstacles facing their students. . . . THE PRIZE may well be one of the most important books on education to come along in years.”
—Alex Kotlowitz, New York Times Book Review
“A stunning account of efforts by wealthy outsiders and ambitious politicians to fix Newark's failing public schools. Veteran journalist Dale Russakoff's narrative is rich with details and anecdotes that showcase the quality of her writing and bring Newark to life for people who have never lived or visited there….The story likely will unnerve educators, reformers, taxpayers, politicians, parents and students anywhere."
"if you read Russakoff’s account and find your beliefs vindicated, you’re not trying hard enough."
—The Seventy Four
“Washington Post reporter Russakoff’s fascinating study of the struggle to reform the Newark school system reveals the inner workings of a wide range of systemic and grassroots problems (charter schools, testing, accountability, private donors) plaguing education reform today… Russakoff’s eagle-eyed view of the current state of the public education system in Newark and the United States is one of the finest education surveys in recent memory.”
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED
"This is of one the most disturbing and powerful books I've read in years. The point of this story is not that the well intentioned Mark Zuckerberg and his wife gave $100 million to help those less fortunate. The point is they gave it to the wrong people. This deeply researched story left me cheering for teachers, crying for schoolchildren, and raging at politicians. With The Prize, Dale Russakoff demonstrates why she is one of the great nonfiction voices of our time."
—James McBride, author of The Color of Water and The Good Lord Bird
"Dale Russakoff managed to get amazing access to the inside story of Mark Zuckerberg’s giant gift to Newark’s schools. And she shows how it all fell apart, derailed and compromised by arrogant reformers, ambitious politicians, and short-sighted special interests. An essential history of the modern education-reform movement, both infuriating and inspiring."
—Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
"Dale Russakoff, one of America’s great journalists, illuminates one of the country’s great problems—the failure of inner city schools—with on-the-ground reporting that extends from the governor’s office and fancy philanthropies down (or up) to the small miracles performed every day by dedicated Newark classroom teachers. Defenders of charter schools and district schools will find not the usual talking points and platitudes, but hard truths contained in Russakoff’s brilliant blend of skeptical and compassionate reportage."
—Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies
"With The Prize Dale Russakoff has brilliantly rendered the hopes, complexities, pitfalls, and flaws of the efforts to reform American education. This is not simply the compelling story of a single conflict-ridden school system, it is a metaphor for the failing institutions that have betrayed an entire generation of American children."
—Jelani Cobb, author of To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip-Hop Aesthetic
"The Prize is a riveting cautionary tale. Despite the best intentions of philanthropists and politicians, big money and big data will not save urban education, as long as reform efforts are undemocratic and overlook the realities of poor children's lives. With her deep ties to Newark, only Dale Russakoff could have told this poignant story. The Prize is essential reading for anyone who cares about how to give hope to America's most vulnerable kids."
—Dana Goldstein, author of The Teacher Wars
—Diane McWhorter, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home