Book Review

The Last Word: The Best Commentary and Controversy in American Education

by Education Week, John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, Calif., 2007, 208 pp. with index, $19.95 softcover

An enduring feature of the newspaper Education Week, first published in 1981, is the Commentary section that runs at the end of each issue. Instead of printing its own editorials, Education Week solicits and prints essays from individuals connected to, or observers of, the field of education.

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the venerable newspaper compiled the best of those commentaries. Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily, editorial director, and Veronika Herman Bromberg, communications director, selected the 42 essays that make up The Last Word: The Best Commentary and Controversy in American Education.

Among the selected commentaries are some of the best-known critics and supporters of education and others who are not at all famous. Essayists include teachers, administrators and political figures who comment on a wide range of education issues.

The book is divided topically so that various sides of an issue are presented together. Topics include teaching, equity, testing, curriculum, technology, democracy, change and reform, school choice and leadership. Most essays are preceded by a brief introduction written by the original author aimed at bringing the commentary up to date. Including the updates was an excellent idea, but reading them after the essays rather than as introductions was much more enjoyable.

Almost all of the commentaries remain relevant. The Last Word will provide administrators with much to think about and should lead to some interesting discussions as policy decisions are contemplated.

Reviewed by Leonard H. Elovitz, associate professor of educational leadership, Kean University, Union, N.J.