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Between 1998, when Alan Bersin became superintendent of the San Diego school system, and 2005, when he left that post, San Diego undertook a sustained and tably ambitious effort to reform its public school system. Bersin's efforts were controversial from the start, both within San Diego and throughout the United States. Yet everyone agreed that the San Diego story was an immensely important one--and that it was a harbinger of reform efforts to come throughout the United States.
As an early and ambitious instance of the types of reforms that by w have been implemented in city schools across the nation, San Diego has received scattered attention within the scholarly and policy worlds. Yet till w there has been comprehensive account of Bersin's tenure and the reforms he undertook during those seven stormy years. Tilting at Windmills fills that gap.
A book that draws equally on Richard Lee Colvin's deep acquaintance with contemporary education reform and the unique circumstances of the San Diego experience, Tilting at Windmills is a penetrating and invaluable account of Bersin's contentious superintendency. At the heart of Colvin's research are years of interviews with Bersin, who granted Colvin unprecedented insight into his experiences and thoughts about the reforms he initiated. The result is a detailed and nuanced narrative of the reform process in San Diego and its relationship to comparable school reform efforts throughout the country.
The definitive account of the San Diego story, Tilting at Windmills is also a crucial contribution to our more general understanding of the education reforms that have swept the nation during the past fifteen years.
Richard Lee Colvin is the former executive director of Education Sector and a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.