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This book is about the encounter between an established but troubled institution-the American high school-and a deep-seated impulse in our society to make things better. Underlying this encounter are two seemingly incompatible movements in American education: the inexorable increase in the number of years that young people stay in school and the reforms to improve how much students learn at each level of schooling. In today’s global economy and increasingly unequal society, the two movements meet their greatest challenge in America’s high schools.