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The Prize

Who's in Charge of America's Schools?

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


A New York Times Bestseller

Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools. They got an education.

When Mark Zuckerberg announced to a cheering Oprah audience his $100 million pledge to transform the downtrodden schools of Newark, New Jersey, then mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie were beside him, vowing to help make Newark “a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.” But their plans soon ran into the city’s seasoned education players, fierce protectors of their billion-dollar-a-year system. It’s a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark’s children. 

Dale Russakoff delivers a riveting drama of our times, encompassing the rise of celebrity politics, big philanthropy, extreme economic inequality, the charter school movement, and the struggles and triumphs of schools in one of the nation’s poorest cities. As Cory Booker navigates between his status as “rock star mayor” on Oprah’s stage and object of considerable distrust at home, the tumultuous changes planned by reformers and their highly paid consultants spark a fiery grass-roots opposition stoked by local politicians and union leaders.  The growth of charters forces the hand of Newark’s school superintendent Cami Anderson, who closes, consolidates, or redesigns more than a third of the city’s schools—a scenario on the horizon for many urban districts across America. 
Russakoff provides a close-up view of twenty-six-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and his wife as they decide to give the immense sum of money to Newark and then experience an education of their own amid the fallout of the reforms. Most moving are Russakoff’s portraits from inside classrooms, as homegrown teachers and principals battle heroically to reach students damaged by extreme poverty and violence. 

The Prize is an absorbing portrait of a titanic struggle, indispensable for anyone who cares about the future of public education and the nation’s children.


From Publishers Weekly

Jun 08, 2015 – 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. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to help transform the schools of Newark, N.J., and create a national model of education reform. The move immediately sparked a series of competing political and social decisions for Mayor Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie. Russakoff sets up the struggle to control the schools with a big-money, top-down approach on one side and a teacher-based, student-by-student, bottom-up approach on the other. Her investigation shows how the powerful Booker-Christie-Zuckerberg triumvirate struggled to truly engage the community and ultimately failed to overcome the mighty Newark political machine. Russakoff accurately depicts individual teachers working in neighborhood schools and parents and staff in the charter system, including through their own words. She also tracks the progress of a student as he struggles to navigate the daily challenges presented by Newark's school reforms. Booker's mayoral successor, Ras Baraka, emerges as the anti-Booker, and Newark school superintendent Cami Anderson is left making the toughest of choices. 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.

Customer Reviews

A Real Page-Turner

As a Newark student of the 70's, whose parents made me part of the "white flight" just before going to high school, I found this accounting to be fascinating. As an educator, I have followed the city very closely, and have been attempting to come back to the city as a principal since the "Waiting for Superman" phenomenon.

The end of the book paints a frustrating epilogue which reads like a pre-apocalyptic ending to a political soap opera. However, I still believe that there is hope for our city. Some of the accountings of positive growth keeps that flicker of hope burning.

Thank you for writing this book. Hopefully, in 10 years, you will return to this story, and we will be part of a more hopeful and inspiring ending.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to get a glimpse at how politics can poison the best of intentions. If this book doesn't inspire you to do something for our children, nothing will. Great Job!

The Prize
View in iTunes
  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Education
  • Published: Aug 02, 2016
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Seller: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings