Berler Raising the Curve: Teachers, Students, A True Portrayal of Classroom Life

Berler, R. (2013). Raising the curve: Teachers, students – a true portrayal of classroom life. New York: Berkley Books.


Summary: This book is an attempt to portray classroom life in an urban school in Connecticut. Berler spent a year at the school. He tells parallel experiences of the same academic year through the eyes of the principal, the literary specialist, one fifth grade teacher, and a few students. The book is an easy read, and I see some potential in using parts of chapters, perhaps, in undergraduate coursework. For example, Mr. Morey, the fifth grader teacher is well liked by his students, but even still, some of his students continually test boundaries and act out. Towards the end of the year, he becomes frustrated and shares with the students his passion for them and yet is frustration with their behavior. Towards the end, he sees a change in two boys’ behavior. They change because they like Mr. Morey and were upset for letting him down. This is an example of Levin and Nolan’s (2011) referent power. On the other hand, I am currently working in urban schools and while there were parts of the book that I can relate to, I would caution the acceptance of this book as a universal depiction of urban schools and of urban schools that are struggling. While I agree that these kinds of narratives are important, particularly for individuals who are removed from education but believe that they know and understand education. You feel the omnipresent frustration of never being good enough and the struggle to persevere in the face of so many obstacles. In that sense, books like this one can be helpful.