Brookside Elementary in Norwalk, CT, is preparing for the first day of a new school year and another chance to improve its failing scores on the annual statewide standardized test known as the CMT. The challenges are many, and for the faculty, whose jobs may depend on their students' ability to improve on the test, the stakes are high. Ten-year-old Hydea is about to start fifth grade with second-grade reading skills. Her friend Marbella is a little further along, but she's more interested in socializing than in learning. And then there's Matthew, a second grader who began the school year below grade level and who, over the course of the year, slipped even more. In past years, these three students and many others would have received help from the literacy specialist Mrs. Schaefer. But with cutbacks and a change in her job description, the third in as many years, she won't be able to give all struggling students the same attention. This year, she will have to select the few students whom she and the teachers can bet on, the ones who are close to achieving proficiency on the CMT. The hope is that this strategy, though not ideal, will give them the boost they, and the school, need to pass the exams. And, for added measure, Principal Hay has already asked his faculty to teach to the test. The author, a journalist spent a full year (from September 2010-June 2011) at Brookside, sitting in on classes, strategy sessions, and even faculty meetings. In this book, he introduces us to the students, teachers, and staff who make up the Brookside community. Though their school is classified as failing, like so many others across the country, they never give up on themselves or on one another. In this portrait, he captures their concerns, as well as their pride, resilience, and spirited faith.