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Topic: Sam Chaltain

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May 20, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Can’t we all get along? Writer calls for truce in education wars

Sam Chaltain

Sam Chaltain

First he was a private school teacher in New York City. Then, briefly, a public school teacher. After that, Sam Chaltain spent years studying schools across the country trying to determine what qualities were common to the very best.

In Washington, D.C., his current hometown, Chaltain got an unusual opportunity to examine two vastly different models up close. For nine months, he observed a new charter program struggling to get off the ground, and contrasted this with the daily ebb-and-flow of life at a 90-year-old neighborhood school. The result is “Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice.”

Chaltain, 43, insists that he never intended to compare and contrast the schools in order to anoint one better than the other. Rather, he strives to present on-the-ground realities in each, with a mind toward suggesting a path forward. As Washington state prepares to open its own charter programs next year, his experience may have particular resonance for public school parents faced, for the first time, with a choice.

What follows is a condensed version of a conversation between Chaltain and The Seattle Times. He will be discussing his book at Powell’s in Portland on Wednesday.

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