Just about every page of Laurel Sturt’s new book, “Davonte’s Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School Gulag,” echoes the anger, frustration and demoralization that city teachers endured for more than a decade under former mayor Michael Bloomberg.
She traces her own journey as a teacher that began with an “every-man-for-himself” September day in 2002 in a high-needs elementary school in the Bronx. High on idealism but with scant summer training as a Teaching Fellow and no advance notice of what she would be teaching, she began her new career teaching English language arts.
Sturt’s account spares no one. She charges the system with educational malpractice as she recounts a decade of soaring class size, scant resources, mindless testing, micromanagement and inexperienced principals. She is especially harsh on the burden of paperwork: “Hours of effort (and loss of instruction) would end up lifeless digits on a spreadsheet downtown.”
Sturt calls on parents and educators to fight to regain control of schools as a civil rights issue. She calls for the wraparound services that community schools provide to counter the negative effects that poverty has on students and she makes a compelling case for the need for a proven rich curriculum not tied to high-stakes testing.