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A Light Shines in Harlem: New York’s First Charter School and the Movement It Led

As we usher in 2015 and the promise a New Year always brings, it seems the perfect time to launch a blog about education reform and my recent book, A Light Shines in Harlem: New York’s First Charter School and the Movement It Led.

I’ll set the stage by giving you some background about the book and myself. A Light Shines tells the fascinating story of New York’s first charter school, the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, and of the charter movement. It’s a penetrating look at the host of real-world decisions that go into making a charter school, or any school, succeed. And it’s a true-to-life inspirational tale about how a hero of the civil rights movement, a Wall Street star, educators, inner-city activists, parents and students all joined together to create the groundbreaking school.

As for me, I’m an award-winning journalist and have written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, Redbook magazine and other publications, large and small. So, although I first thought the book would be a simple story about a feisty little school in Harlem, my journalistic instincts quickly kicked in, and I soon realized that the story was much more complex than I had initially thought.

I began looking at education reform through a broader lens and uncovered the most recent research and issues facing the charter movement, which now educates more than 2.5 million students nationwide. I learned that there were lessons to be learned from the Sisulu-Walker school and other charter schools and that those lessons can be applied to other schools to make all schools better. Eventually, the book became not only a gripping inside narrative of how one school fought to succeed despite the odds, but also an illuminating glimpse into the future of American education.

The fall of 2014 was good to A Light Shines. It was favorably reviewed by The New York Times, The Harvard Kennedy School’s Education Next journal, the Manhattan Institute, the Huffington Post, and numerous other publications.

It also landed on numerous must-read lists, including Publishers Weekly’s most notable African-American titles for the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015. It, too, was recommended as a must-read by publications and sites as diverse as the Harvard Kennedy School’s Education Next journal, the Center for Education Reform, DropOut Nation, Real Clear Politics, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education and Scholastic Administrator magazine, among others.

Along the way, I began thinking about education in new ways, scrapping much of what I once thought I knew and embracing new ideas about the ever-evolving field of education. As I embark on this new journey, I’ll keep you updated about what’s going on at Sisulu-Walker, but I’ll also continue to explore the most current research and issues facing education reform and educators everywhere. I can’t say for sure where this journey will take me, but, like I did when I first began working on A Light Shines in Harlem, I’ll follow my instincts, wherever they lead me.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

To read more about A Light Shines in Harlem, including some of its reviews, go to or google Facebook A Light Shines in Harlem. It’s also on twitter at

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