This book is a godsend ... a moving portrait for anyone wanting to go beyond the simplified labels and metrics and really understand an urban high school, and its highly individual, resilient, eager and brilliant students and educators.

Dave Eggers

What motivates students to learn, work hard, and persevere through life’s toughest challenges? Why is it so difficult for the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country to build good schools in every neighborhood?

In MISSION HIGH, Mother Jones reporter Kristina Rizga tells intimate stories from the four years she spent immersed in one of the nation's most diverse public high schools. She follows four teachers and their remarkable students as they struggle against closure, resist pressure to focus on test scores, and create some of the most effective classrooms in the country. The unforgettable stories in these pages offer a hopeful lesson for improving all American schools.

Photo of the book cover for Mission High

Kristina Rizga writes for those of us weary of trendy ed reform dispensed from on high. Instead, she listens hard to the students and teachers who must deal with their daily consequences. And — with rigor, common sense, and empathy — she tells of the teachers and students confronting shifting tides of reform and profoundly stacked odds, and succeeding. The Mission High that Rizga describes is a beacon, and her deeply textured, heartbreakingly humane book also shines a beautifully clarifying light.

Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: The Colorization of America and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

In Mission High, Kristina Rizga embeds at a San Francisco public school to show the high standards, professionalism — and even love — that belie the easy label of "failing school." A much-needed corrective to an education debate that often fails to ask how students and teachers experience reform on the ground.

Dana Goldstein, author of The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession

Mission High is one of the best books about education I’ve read in years. It should be a conversation changer.

LynNell Hancock, professor of journalism, Columbia University, and director of Spencer Fellowship for Education Journalism

Rizga captures beautifully how young scholars are encouraged and developed. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the holistic nature of teaching and learning.

Prudence L. Carter, professor of education, Stanford University, and co-author with Kevin G. Welner of Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance

A clear-eyed, evidence-based, and wonderfully fresh understanding of what education ‘reform’ truly means.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the The Nation

Mother Jones education reporter Rizga delivers a firsthand report on a 'failing' school system…this skills-based model represents a shift in thinking that could very well establish a shift in results.

Kirkus Reviews

Recommended for parents, teachers, and administrators concerned with the problems in our educational system and looking for fresh ideas on how to fix it. Rizga is convinced that Mission High has found answers others can learn from, and she makes a compelling argument.

Library Journal


Kristina Rizga (@kristinarizga) has been writing about youth and student issues for over a decade, most recently as an education reporter for Mother Jones. Her writing has been published in The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and The American Prospect, among other publications. Prior to Mother Jones, Rizga was the executive editor of WireTap, an award-winning political magazine for young adults. She is also co-founder and reporter at the Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism, based in her homeland, Latvia. She lives with her husband Mike Stern in San Francisco.

kristina (at) rizga dot com

For event or media enquires email info (at) missionhighbook dot com

Public Affairs / Nation Books Publicist
Chris Juby, chris.juby (at) perseusbooks dot com

Photo of the author: Kristina Rizga

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