Searching for Hope

Searching for Hope

Life at a Failing School in the Heart of America
Matthew Tully
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/24/2012
Format: Hardback 13 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00593-9
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Silver Medal, Education category, 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards

Searching for Hope is a gripping account of life in a once-great high school in a rough Indianapolis neighborhood. Granted unfiltered access to Manual High throughout an entire school year, award-winning journalist Matthew Tully tells the complex story of the everyday drama, failures, and triumphs in one of the nation’s many troubled urban public high schools. He walks readers into classrooms, offices, and hallways, painting a vivid picture of the profound academic problems, deep frustrations, and apathy that absorb and sometimes consume students, teachers, and administrators. Yet this intimate view also reveals the hopes, dreams, and untapped talents of some amazing individuals. Providing insights into the challenges confronting those who seek to improve the quality of America’s schools, Tully argues that school leaders and policy makers must rally communities to heartfelt engagement with their schools if the crippling social and economic threats to cities such as Indianapolis are to be averted.

Author Bio

Matthew Tully is the political columnist for the Indianapolis Star. His columns on public schools have helped drive debate over education reform in Indiana. Tully’s commentary has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Education Week, and he has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and numerous other national media outlets. He was named Indiana Journalist of the Year in 2008 and won the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism in 2010.


“An award-winning journalist tells the complex story of the everyday drama, failures, and triumphs in one of the nation’s many troubled urban public high schools whose graduation rate sits at 39%.”

“A gritty, wonderfully honest investigation of life in an urban American high school in the 21st century. The despair, the apathy, the misplaced anger, the frustrations and fights for something better are all there. The school in Indianapolis where Tully spent so much time is close to what I have found in many big cities, but few reporters have gone as deep as Tully has.”
 — Jay Mathews, Washington Post education columnist and author of Work Hard, Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America

“Every reform-minded educator, parent, and politician should read this book. It will change the way they think about what's really needed to help every student in a struggling school achieve his or her full potential.”
 — Gerardo M. González, Dean, School of Education, Indiana University Bloomington

“With a great mix of storytelling and analysis, Matthew Tully puts a human face on the statistics we’re bombarded with about the decline of education in our cities. In equal parts brutally honest and surprisingly uplifting, Searching for Hope . . . is required reading for anyone attempting to understand or address the problems of urban education in the United States.”
 — Jonathan Plucker, Director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Indiana University Bloomington

“[A]n even-more-compelling version of the saga Tully chronicled in his Manual Project.”
 — Indianapolis Monthly

“[T]his keen observation of teens at a troubled high school makes for fascinating reading. (Dare to finish with dry eyes the chapter about a holiday concert.) ”
 — Library Journal

“[W]hile the book offers no unfamiliar insight into the plight of urban schools, it does give a powerful, ultimately genuine voice to the complicated, imperfect individuals whose victories and hopes are often unreported.”
 — Publishers Weekly

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Table of Contents

1 Why are you here?
2 I never thought he would be a dandelion
3 Can you believe this?
4 We do a good job with the kids who show up
5 I hate this school
6 Go to class, Zach
7 We're not going to be average here
8 Where's the school spirit?
9 I don't like being called stupid
10 You have to crawl first
11 We're dropping out
12 I get hit all the time
13 A trend of low achievement
14 What's gonna happen, Mr. Grismore?
15 Could you imagine if we filled the house?
16 It feels like I'm a somebody
17 I used to be bad
18 I knew I didn't want that
19 There's nobody that can't do something
20 It never stops around here
21 I like to solve problems
22 I'm the kid who doesn't exist
23 Trouble follows me
24 I'm willing to run these schools
25 Now I know why I'm tall
26 In honor of our schoolmates
27 Wow, this is amazing
28 You are survivors

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