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Written by an elementary principal in a poor, urban neighbourhood in the United States, The Least of These recounts a year in the life of a school and challenges the proposition that school reform can be achieved smoothly. The author describes the conditions of the children's lives and those of the people who struggle to help them. Her account is a moving narrative depicting poverty, violence and neglect, and the teachers' struggle to offset these dismal conditions. The book highlights the restrictions facing the school which result from a large bureaucracy and a powerful teachers' union.