#PubDay Book Review | “Adequate Yearly Progress” by Roxanna Elden

Posted Tuesday, 11 February, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I have been a book blogger hosting publisher blog tours and/or featuring book reviews for Simon & Schuster (as well as a few of their imprints) since 2017 however I didn’t start to host for them regularly until 2018. What I appreciate about being a book blogger for this publisher is that they have the tendency of knowing the types of Contemporary & Historical stories which interest me to read even before I realise there is a new release forthcoming which I might gravitate towards wanting to read! It never fails to delight me finding one of their emails in my Inbox because they have the tendency of selecting the stories which align wonderfully with my own bookish wanderings. It is a joy to be a book blogger on their publisher blog tours and/or hosting reviews for them outside of the organised blog tours.

I received a complimentary copy of “Adequate Yearly Progress” direct from the publisher Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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The reason reading ”Adequate Yearly Progress” appealled to me:

Ever since I was in school, I oft wondered what the teachers were talking about when they weren’t in the classroom. Growing up during budget cuts in the public & private school systems in the United States was an interesting view of the education system. Programs like Art, Drama, Shop (construction) and anything ‘extra’ after school were generally the first to get cut whilst they also had shortages on textbooks which is why I still remember how difficult it was to ‘lose our lockers’ in seventh and eighth grade because we literally had to go down to using ‘class sets’ without taking anything home except for copied work sheets which you could do in your sleep. In other words, for a lot of the years I was in school I didn’t feel academically challenged but what I gained instead was self-confidence, self-advocacy and self-esteem; in essence, I was building life skills and learning how to navigate the world.

Still though – there was a lot of bureaucratic red tape for the teachers, including the good ones who were student centred and held our interests ahead of their own. Some wanted to do more but were hindered by the budget or the restraints of the rules within public or private education (depending which school I was attending and which grade level). The only time I really had a chance to interact with the faculty and teachers more directly was in eighth grade where I befriended the school principal who tragically died prematurely shortly afterwards and in high school where the veil was fully lifted and I learnt far more than I expected!

For these reasons and the current state of public education in America, I decided this might be a rather timely novel to be reading. I also grew up being a dyslexic learner where most of my teachers didn’t realise I had learning difficulties because I learnt to overcompensate for my dyslexia – however, that’s a topic for another time as it lead to its own quirky complications!

Suffice it to say, from a very young age when it came to academic curiosity and literary wanderings – I did most of my educational pursuits off-campus and outside traditional education. I learnt more from my Mum who was technically my first teacher and through my family who always encouraged me to have as many experiences as I could and to seek out alternative learning opportunities.

Once I learnt how to work round my dyslexia the world of books became a cosy comfort because there wasn’t a subject I couldn’t explore on my own and there was a wide literary world out there to time travel through – in essence, what I have shared on Jorie Loves A Story is a small fraction of insight into my life as an independent learner and a self-motivating reader who continues to self-educate herself through literature and libraries.

Thus, I was dearly curious how this Contemporary novel might explore the current state of the educational system and the teachers who have a lot to deal with in regards to resources available to them in order to educate the children in their classrooms. I also thought it might have some cheeky humour along the way which is always a good thing to find!

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#PubDay Book Review | “Adequate Yearly Progress” by Roxanna EldenAdequate Yearly Progress
by Roxanna Elden
Source: Direct from Publisher

Roxanna Elden’s “laugh-out-loud funny satire” (Forbes) is a brilliantly entertaining and moving look at our education system.

Each new school year brings familiar challenges to Brae Hill Valley, a struggling high school in one the biggest cities in Texas. But the teachers also face plenty of personal challenges and this year, they may finally spill over into the classroom.

English teacher Lena Wright, a spoken-word poet, can never seem to truly connect with her students. Hernan D. Hernandez is confident in front of his biology classes, but tongue-tied around the woman he most wants to impress. Down the hall, math teacher Maybelline Galang focuses on the numbers as she struggles to parent her daughter, while Coach Ray hustles his troubled football team toward another winning season. Recording it all is idealistic second-year history teacher Kaytee Mahoney, whose anonymous blog gains new readers by the day as it drifts ever further from her in-class reality. And this year, a new superintendent is determined to leave his own mark on the school—even if that means shutting the whole place down.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Education & Learning, Literary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teachers & Educators

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781982135027

Published by Atria Books

on 11th February, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 400

 Published By:  Published By: Atria Books (@AtriaBooks)
{imprint of} Simon & Schuster (

Converse via: #AdequateYearlyProgress, #ContemporaryFiction + #RealisticFiction
Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Audiobook & Ebook

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About Roxanna Elden

Roxanna Elden

Roxanna Elden is the author of Adequate Yearly Progress: A Novel, and See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers. She combines eleven years of experience as a public school teacher with a decade of speaking to audiences around the country about education issues. She has been featured on NPR as well as in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and more.

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My Review of adequate yearly progress:

As soon as you tuck into Adequate Yearly Progress you start to keep in step with Lena as she makes her way into the school acknowledging her fellow teachers as she makes her progress to her classroom. The interesting bit here is that there is a hopefulness about the coming semester and the year itself; of what potential it could bring and how there is a hopeful chance of connecting to the students. A lot of what is being observed in these opening moments of the story reflect what I remember seeing my own teachers and faculty doing whenever school first began in Autumn. They had healthier outlooks and weren’t feeling as bogged down as they do by mid-term and mid-year; they always seemed to have a bit more light in their eyes and hearts, too. I have a feeling teachers were holding back quite a lot from their students and how they managed to find joy in teaching despite the obstacles they had to overcome was something I always admired.

Here we find a timid yet enthusiastic second year teacher in Kaytee whose teaching remedial classes for the first time and like in real life, Elden highlights how schools try to mask those classes by naming them something completely absurd and cleverly irrelevant. I knew classmates who took those classes and for the most part (at least by high school in the mid-90s) the stigma about those who take them was starting to ease a bit and I felt that was better progress than how they used to have to deal with their peers because as a dyslexic learner I had had my own fair share of needing academic help and/or tutoring to get through different areas of my schooling. The irony of course is when schools would go a bit too far and try to re-classify a whole class by separating what they felt were the gifted from the average – such as the logic of my own middle school, and that unfortunately led to more social issues on campus than they could have predicted!

I knew I was connecting with Lena when she started to talk about the ways in which the current climate for today’s students was such an actively volatile state of awareness (ie. per current events) she wanted to rise above the wave of what might cause an in-surge of anxiety for the students with a pro-positive way of looking at the world round them through the lens of stories and the ways in which stories are alive through their settings. I loved how she approached this through visual clues and imagery with photography which in turn, her students could reprocreate on their own and find their own muses along the way.

There are reflections of modern life inside Adequate Yearly Progress you might not expect to find such as the silent comment by Lena about Breyonna’s engagement ring – in the past, no one would have referenced how that signals a struggle of conscience if you are a compassionate person who is in-tune with the diamond trade and the problems therein. Even the rise of a new superintendent of schools has an ominous foreboding to it as there have been people elevated to positions in the educational system who don’t have the experience, background or education to fully understand the role they now occupy. Each step of the way, as you follow the footsteps of Elden’s teachers – you are also privy to the undercurrent awareness’s of modern Americana life told from a refreshing Texan POV which is beautifully cross-relatable to everyone else who lives here.

Especially from the angle of the school’s principal who wants to ensure his teachers can keep on keeping on what they’ve been doing year in and year out; though if that is a good thing or not doesn’t seem to phase him as much as the fact the new superintendent of the school distinct is calling his bluff. He apparently liked to warm up to the superintendent and in his own way and timing lay down the approach his school has towards teaching and the synchronicity of its teachers. This year of course there is a new person who wants to upend all of that and give him and his teachers a bit of a run for their jobs so to speak. This new person wants to alter everything they have come to expect as the normal way things are done and that in of itself was causing more than a small ripple of friction to his personal anxieties and the coming anxiety he knew his teachers would start to feel as the school year began to get underway. Elden humbles her characters in how she shows their fragilities and their strengths; you get to be privy to their honest reactions to what is happening round them but also how they interpret the changes arriving in their lives.

The character I felt a bit concerned about was Maybelline – she had a determined conscience to find the order in life and the more structure she could place on herself, her daughter and how she lived her life overall the happier she felt. It did not surprise me her favourite subject was Mathematics because although there is a bit of flexibility in how math can be solved (something it took me until visiting with Professors at college to realise did exist!) the reason why people love Mathematics is due to how predictable the outcomes are and how reliant math can be for people who like things to be kept ‘neat and tidy’ without too many surprises along the way. My concern for her grew as she was disclosing the differences between herself and her sister Rosemary; not just as women but how they were approaching to raise their daughters – felt like there was going to be a moment where it would just all hit the proverbial fan!

Kaytee had the wide-eyed wonder of a new teacher who had a lot of good ideas to promote in her classroom but she was still struggling to find a way to connect to her students. She reminded me of a lot of teachers I’ve seen in either biographical films about IRL teachers who loved dedicating their lives to the children they taught or the teachers I’ve found in novels like this one where they are still a bit green on how to engage with their audience but also promote the message they want their lessons to encourage their students to learn. She had potential but she was still sorting out her way as a teacher and the scenes where she’s trying to make those connections work despite the murmurings of her thoughts attempting to distract her gave you the most hope for this school.

Elden didn’t just write a story about the state of education – she wanted you to see the multicultural environment in which public schools encompass – though on that note, all of my schools in the ’80s and ’90s were multi-ethnic and cross-cultural environments where thankfully everyone had the freedom of choice how they wanted to wear their clothes, style their hair and live authentically. I am unsure what changed – especially when I see new headlines about how African-Americans can’t have their hair naturally styled in class or how it is highlighted in Adequate Yearly Progress as a contemporary issue overall. It boggles me really what could have shifted from my own childhood and young adult life into present day where everything that was acceptable in the past is now questioned in the future? I definitely see how much we have lost and how much we need to regain.

Lena was the heroine for me of the story – how she took extra care and attention to choosing how she used her words, how she explained the subjects she was discussing in class and how she intuitively understood that just because a student might have become marginalised in the school’s sense of intellectual status (as those standardised tests never really did understand you can’t use them to measure any student’s self worth as a learner or as a person who experiences their world) – she saw past the stigmas and the designations in order to seek out the truth of the subjects themselves in order to better present them to her students. The kind of teacher who would feel inspired by spoken word poetry and do something radical (in the eyes of her own peers) to prove a point to her class about how relatable she was to the issues important to them and how those issues and those causes are important to everyone and not just the ethnic group they are affecting.

Although it doesn’t quite go into details about how students can become marginalised for learning difficulties (like I was) it does focus on the absurdity of how most schools have to conform to teaching only the components of the standardised tests rather than a well-rounded education which is inclusive of all subjects including STEM or STEAM. There are a lot of disconnects between how education is meant to be managed and run on the administration side of the ledger vs how teachers are on the front lines everyday trying to engage, impact and encourage their students sense of creativity, intellectual curiosity and self-awareness of their environments and world.

Kaytee is the teacher who is highlighting the fact that if your a teacher who wants to do more for their students your path might have a harder climb. She immediately finds this out when she starts to seek advice from her colleague who shut her down before she can even clarify what is impacting her conscience about the students in her class. To me this reflected a lot of moments I observed in my own years at school – where teachers would try to get innovative ideas about how to re-inspire their students or how to connect with them in a way they hadn’t known would work by re-engaging those issues with their (supposed) supportive network of fellow teachers. Instead you see how futile this pursuit is and how Kaytee would be better off sourcing her own resources for help and aide outside the community of teachers she works with everyday.

One aspect of the novel I felt was bang-on brilliant is how overreaching the mandates were assaulting the school itself – how teachers were being burdened to write platitudes on their boards in lieu of focusing on their curriculum’s and how all the ‘added’ weight and pressure to prove their performance for these new mandates were lessening their abilities to teach, connect and innovate their students lives because similar to the standardised tests and the prep work behind them – these new installations of requirements were removing more time away from where the teachers’ shined the most: sharing their joy and spirit for what they love to teach! It just never fails me where people who want to innovate change in schools (especially the public school system) forget how the best way to encourage change in a student’s life is to enable the teachers to have the most tools in their resource to teach the children directly and to creatively re-ignite their curiosity to learn – its not about platitudes, affirmations or positive quotations; its about how they are taught.

Reading Adequate Yearly Progress for me felt like returning back to school albeit several stark changes which I’ve peppered throughout this review where I noticed the years of my schooling have changed from the schooling of today. I wasn’t sure how I’d take to this story but it was soon apparent to me how much I was loving the manner in which it was told! The insightfulness of Elden in how she enlarged the context of issues surrounding public school high school teachers and the administrative staff who are attempting to everything they can to keep their schools open whilst redirecting the reader to what happens during non-school hours where each of these characters have so much happening in their lives it is a miracle they can find the focus they need to teach and/or run the school itself.

Elden also shined a hearty light on the dangers of teaching in a climate where the students test boundaries and can sometimes override the safety guidelines all schools adhere to for the students’ safety as much as the teachers and staff. There was a rather poignant flashback involving Maybelline and why order from chaos is her personal decorum. Without this insight to understanding a portion of her own back-history as a teacher we might have previously overlooked why order and methodological practices were her wheelhouse; over and aside from the fact that she taught Mathematics and how finite and exacting the subject is disciplined. It was here and elsewhere Elden strove to highlight what is right in education and where you can draw a gray line through the places where need both improvement and more agency for teachers to have the help they need when things go wrong.

The one takeaway I didn’t experience reading Adequate Yearly Progress was comedy as this novel read more like a realistic edgy drama where the emotions of the characters and the intensity of the lives of the students play out in a way that is both humbling to read and dramatically sombering to digest. I remember seeing this promoted as a comedy or even as a comedic way of looking at the state of teaching in the United States, however, for whichever reason for me personally it took on a darker tint of understanding the harder aspects of juggling expectations from the suits who run the corporate side of education to finding the middle path in the realities of the culture of teaching.

Fly in the ointment:

Uniquely when the chapter arrived about the football coach I was a bit miffed and shocked really to see the l language taking a steep turn for the rhythm Elden had already established? This novel had its own heart and pulse which was absent of stronger words and yet, as soon as the chapter focuses on football we suddenly have to shift how language is being used in the context of the novel? I didn’t appreciate that switch-out because to be honest when I was in school and in the years after I was in school I have yet to observe or overhear high school coaches swearing like sailors!

Especially considering that strong language never used to be commonplace on campus as much as it has become today – so that could be the difference there but evenso, I expect more from teachers and coaches to set a better example about how to show how language and words can be used which is why I was a bit taken back this particular coach really vocalised his love for expletives! Of course this also set the stage for more strong language to erupt more frequently in the rest of the novel and I had missed the earlier pacing and rhythm I had enjoyed prior to when the football coach arrived in the timeline because it seemed to redirect everything which came next in regards to the differences in how language was used for the duration of the novel.

There were also diary entries spread out throughout the story which at first I thought were aid the flow of the narrative but soon thereafter I felt they were taking away from the continuity of just remaining in-step with the teachers at this school. I believe they were to highlight how there are forums and blogs teachers can go to communicate with each other and that of course leads to a lot of tangents and *threads of responses which sometimes go OT (off-topic). For me, they became a bit unnecessary and I started to skip over them.

on the contemporary & realistic styling of roxanna elden:

Elden has such a hands-on approach of illuminating a school’s interior world – it felt like I was re-transitioning back into my own school days (moving through mostly middle and high; or grades 6th-12th) observing my own teachers and the cluttering days of seeing how everyone was shuffling through the hours, sorting out how best to connect with their students (or the teachers who took the more relaxed approach and didn’t try as hard) whilst there was always something required of the teachers themselves to be held accountable and to turn in their own paperwork which most of the students in my schools were ambivalent towards as they didn’t pay as much attention to the school’s administration as I had myself.

Elden brings this whole nexus of the educational system to life – bursting with nuanced observations about where you’d find teachers in the walls of a school building, how they try to avoid certain persons and how sometimes subjects of conversations are harder than others to engage with directly. It is an inter-personal view of a teacher’s life with the backdrop set against the current state of the educational system in America.

Curiously rather than using traditional brackets of sections within a novel (ie. chapters, sequential numbers or using character names, etc) Elden elected to keep this rooted in the context of which it was exploring which are the topics & subjects teachers and educators would be in charge of educating the youth of today throughout a school year. It was an interesting idea and one I felt she pulled off rather well because like different itemized sections these were each revealling more insight into how the chosen topic headers related to the content of that part of the novel.

I loved how Elden first took us into the opening days of how a school begins to start back to life post-Summer and how despite the duties of the teachers and staff to put what needs placing back into the classrooms and the campus itself for the students to thrive on a new school year what was more interesting to me is how Elden pulled back the lens to slowly reveal where each of these teachers are in their lives. What is happening with their life off-campus and how their personal lives are either full of their own woes of stress or they are transitioning through things they try to cover from being acknowledged at school. In other words, no one really knows what is going on in the life of teachers on any given day or school year, but Elden gives you a novel which seeks to fill in some of the gaps! I loved how she humanised their journey – how she tucked close to their honest thoughts and how even teachers could use more hugs due to all the pressures they have to face and still find a will to be present for their students in a way that doesn’t disadvantage them nor reveal the harder truths about the injustices and short-comings of the public education system.

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This book review is courtesy of:

Atria Books / Simon & Schuster

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Be sure to visit my fellow book bloggers I was able to find
– wherein you can gather different perspectives on behalf of the novel:

Review | BookFan

Review | Mom Loves Reading

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This review is a bit older than the current ones but gives excellent insight into the story.

Review | Gary Rubinstein’s Blog

(*) note – though it is a bit tricky to find my fellow book bloggers who are receiving this novel for review from the publisher, I do try to seek them out and list their reviews for you to enjoy reading – whilst further gauging if this is a story you’d like to be reading yourself. A few of course, might be offering a bookaway – enjoy your journeying!

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Adequate Yearly Progress”, book synopsis and author biography were all provided by Simon & Schuster (courtesy of Atria Books) and used with permission. The author’s photo for Roxanna Elden was provided by the author Roxanna Elden via her Media Kit on her website and is used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 11 February, 2020 by jorielov in 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Equality In Literature, Fly in the Ointment, Learning Difficulties, Literary Fiction, Modern Day, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Publishers & Presses (Direct Reviews), School Life & Situations, Simon & Schuster, Teacher & Student Relationships, Vulgarity in Literature

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