Inside the race to save a great American high school, where making the numbers is only the beginning

Reagan High was no dream assignment. Once famous for educational awards and football championships, the school was marked for closure in the standardized testing movement.

But when Anabel Garza took the job, she started something no one expected. Racing against a deadline to lift scores, she set out to rebuild the kind of school that once unified neighborhoods across America, with plays and dances, yearbooks and clubs, crowded bleachers and teachers who brought books alive.

And soon she was not alone. There was Derrick Davis, a star player on the basketball team in the early 1990s, teaching kids they could be winners. There was Candice Kaiser, a science teacher who had left hard partying behind for Christ, showing kids they could learn. There were JaQuarius Daniels, Ashley Brown and 900 other kids trying to pass the exams, escape the streets and restore the pride of a neighborhood, all while still growing up.

Across the country, public schools face the threat of extinction in the numerically ordained churn of the accountability movement. Now, for the first time, we can tally the human cost of rankings and scores. In this powerful rejoinder to the prevailing winds of American education policy, Michael Brick takes us inside the high-pressure world of a school on the brink. Compelling, character-driven narrative journalism, Saving the School pays overdue tribute to the great American high school, and to the people inside.

Advance Praise for Saving the School

“At once an inspiring portrait of a Texas principal’s fight to reform her school and an indictment of the American education system.”

- O, The Oprah Magazine