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Publisher's Summary

The untold story of the root cause of America's education crisis - and the seemingly endless cycle of multigenerational poverty.

It was only after years within the education reform movement that Natalie Wexler stumbled across a hidden explanation for our country's frustrating lack of progress when it comes to providing every child with a quality education. The problem wasn't one of the usual scapegoats: lazy teachers, shoddy facilities, lack of accountability. It was something no one was talking about: the elementary school curriculum's intense focus on decontextualized reading comprehension "skills" at the expense of actual knowledge. In the tradition of Dale Russakoff's The Prize and Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars, Wexler brings together history, research, and compelling characters to pull back the curtain on this fundamental flaw in our education system - one that fellow reformers, journalists, and policymakers have long overlooked, and of which the general public, including many parents, remains unaware.

But The Knowledge Gap isn't just a story of what schools have gotten so wrong - it also follows innovative educators who are in the process of shedding their deeply ingrained habits, and describes the rewards that have come along: students who are not only excited to learn but are also acquiring the knowledge and vocabulary that will enable them to succeed. If we truly want to fix our education system and unlock the potential of our neediest children, we have no choice but to pay attention.

©2019 Natalie Wexler (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Essential reading for teachers, education administrators, and policymakers alike." (Library Journal starred review)

"Education journalist Wexler mounts a compelling critique of American elementary schools.... An informative analysis of elementary education that highlights pervasive problems." (Kirkus Reviews

"For parents, teachers, and anyone who cares about the potential of education to brighten kids' futures, reading The Knowledge Gap will be an eye-opening experience. Through vivid classroom scenes and stories of would-be reformers, Natalie Wexler exposes a crucial aspect education that is often overlooked: In most American elementary schools, teachers are not given the training and support they need to provide deep, rich content - about history, social studies, science, language and the world around them. And students, especially vulnerable ones, suffer for it.” (Peg Tyre, author of The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Children the Education They Deserve)

"The knowledge gap is real, and its effects are profound. This book offers an accurate, engaging, and clear description of the problem and how to solve it. It’s a must-read for educators, parents and policy makers." (Dr. Judith C. Hochman, founder of The Writing Revolution; co-author, The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades)

What listeners say about The Knowledge Gap

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Thoughts on The Knowledge Gap

As a 65 year old retired educator, that employed many of the skills/strategies eschewed in this book, it’s hard to process all this. That said, I admit to developing a “taste” for SoR and found this book extremely illuminating. I realize (now) that this information had been available when I was still working, yet somehow I had never heard it...and I always tried to stay current through professional books & literature. To me, reading with students at their instructional level was “the” strategy I employed for 36 years so all of this information will take a while for me to accept (for now). The other major “reveal” to me was the influence of background knowledge on comprehension. Obviously, I knew its importance but not to the point of infusing a true SS (didn’t see much science) curriculum rather than increasing my LA time. Fascinating. Again, I’m not there (yet) but will further pursue this area of study.
One more point...thank you for putting this on audio (very few books on curriculum, especially Reading/Language Arts are on audio) as I could listen to it while walking...I wish more professional books were on audio. Thank you.

12 people found this helpful

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Two Glaring Omissions

I enjoyed the earnestness of Ms. Wexler’s delivery and research efforts and agree wholeheartedly with her premise that the achievement gap is a knowledge gap. Sadly, though, she fails to fails to sufficiently emphasize the two most entrenched aspects of the public education bureaucracy: the insidious cultural relativism infecting it and the all powerful teachers unions whose ultimate goal is to enhance teacher lives not educate. Having been to more than 100 educational conventions I have seen this first hand. I had several instances where I was verbally attacked by teachers who asked me rhetorically, “ who was I to inform students on the meaning of words, these meanings are relative to each student”. Before the tergiversation of Diane Ravitch, in her book, “The Language Police” she exposes the corrupt principles guiding the education establishment, not the least of which is that, “70% of children are uneducable past the third grade”.

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent Information for Teachers and Parents

I homeschool my own children, but also teach online and I found this book full of fascinating information. As a homeschooler, it was exciting to hear Core Knowledge Foundation mentioned, as I am familiar with this company. The book was read by the author and I could sense her passion about this topic. It also helps me in my online teaching because there were some tips for ELA instruction in it. It's not a "how-to" book, but I found it inspired me to plan on some changes in our homeschool as well as ways I implement the online curriculum given to me.

3 people found this helpful

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Must Read

This book is a must read for all educators, parents and policy makers. Natalie provides research along with stories from the field that bring the message alive. Highly recommend.

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teachers, principals, school boards, and superinte

Pretty good and forcing you to think about the why of the classroom. I am skeptical of her silver bullet methodology of fixing the system, but Wexler does a good job of outlining what we are leaving out, and why it matters

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wow

What an amazing resource! Validated what I know to be good literacy instruction. Will reread.

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Political history of education strategies

I really enjoyed getting to know the history of why schools have shifted towards a skills-based system over a knowledge based system. It shed a lot of light for me on why it’s hard to prioritize history and science in early education - what curriculum is chosen to be included and excluded is political. While I don’t agree with the author’s priorities when it comes to a curriculum strategy, I recognize that privileged kids will have access to both types of learning and that background knowledge is key to learning. Ultimately, public education is designed for keeping unlucky kids from floundering, not educating our society to build the best minds for the future.

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Incredibly Thought Provoking

As a fifth year teacher, this was eye-opening and validating of my concerns. Definitely a must-read for teachers, parents, education board members/lawmakers and administrators!

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Must Read!!

Extremely insightful and some of the case studies were surprising. This book helped me better understand my own education and the structure of the schools that I work in.

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Informative, yet negative

While I appreciate the information and historical perspective, I found the overall tone to be negative and distracting. While we hope teachers believe students can learn, I would have appreciated a mindset represented by the authored that acknowledged elementary teachers are capable. The belief in middle and high school teachers is evident, while all apparently woes are framed by the author to be primarily the result of the actions of elementary teachers.