Reading & Resources

School Administrator, April 2019

Book Reviews
7 Steps to Sharing Your School’s Story on Social Media
by Jason Kotch
and Edward Cosentino, Routledge, New York, N.Y., 2018, 100 pp., $34.95 softcover

7 Steps to Sharing Your School’s Story on Social Media is a great book if you are looking to begin sharing your school’s story on social media or if you have been sharing and want to know what you can do next to improve your communications.

When Jason Kotch, principal of Garnet Valley Elementary School in Glen Mills, Pa., and Edward Cosentino, principal of Clemens Crossing Elementary School in Columbia, Md., met at a professional conference a few years ago, they agreed to present together the next summer. All their collaboration took place through social media. They had planned to try many tools, but found Facebook and Twitter the most valuable for developing their skills.  

The authors do an excellent job of correlating the seven steps with what leaders already do. This includes aligning social media with the district mission and vision, and communicating with families and the community. In addition, each of the seven steps has an easy-to-follow to-do list. 

7 Steps is an easy-to-use guide to get your schools to use or increase their social media presence in a positive and productive way.    

Reviewed by Nancy Wagner,
superintendent, River Trails School District 26, Mt. Prospect, Ill.

Discrimination in Elite Public Schools: Investigating Buffalo
edited by Gary Orfield
and Jennifer B. Ayscue, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2018, 157 pp. with index, $37.95 softcover

The lead editor and researcher of Discrimination in Elite Public Schools, Gary Orfield, is a UCLA professor who has examined school desegregation and civil rights issues for 30 years. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this study in Buffalo. Jennifer Ayscue, also at UCLA, has an accomplished research record on school integration matters. While they are both in favor of desegregation and integration from a policy perspective, they realize the complexity of implementation.

In 2014, a group of Buffalo parents brought the issue of discrimination to the attention of the U.S. Office of Civil Rights based upon the determination that the enrollment of the “best” schools were stratified along racial lines. A settlement was reached that required the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education to consider the recommendations of this study. This is not a new issue within urban schools, even when choice is part of the school enrollment process. In Buffalo and elsewhere, exam schools and magnet schools have been established to encourage excellence, often along with a dual goal of desegregation. Parents tend to feel that if their children are not in the elite school, their life chances are reduced. Consequently, they may move out of the city or enroll in private schools.

Buffalo has eight criteria-based schools with one – City Honors School – considered to be one of the best schools in the country. The authors point out that labels such as “charter” or “magnet” do not make a school a high quality educational environment. However, the facts in Buffalo tend to support the public opinion that the choice schools are indeed of higher quality. The facts also confirm the segregation of the students. Here is where prior court rulings and situations in other communities become a maze for school administrators and board members trying to develop workable policies and regulations.

The team of researchers on this project concluded that without intentional effort, choice programs will exacerbate racial segregation and inequality. They offer rational steps a school district can take to address these problems starting with a districtwide diversity plan, accessible information, holistic admissions processes, expanding choices and student preparation programs. There is no guarantee that following these steps will result in universal excellence and equity or that the Office of Civil Rights or the courts will agree with such efforts. Change, as any superintendent can confirm, is not easy. 

Then there is the question of politics to consider. This book describes the local politics in excruciating detail, including the board president who opposed the study, the superintendent turnover and several changes of the board majority. The painted picture is not pretty, but it is reality. Discrimination in Elite Public Schools is worth reading for those caught up in similar situations or individuals interested in the policies and politics of providing equity and excellence in urban school systems.

Reviewed by Art Stellar, vice president, National Education Foundation, Hingham, Mass.

The Emerging Work of Today’s Superintendent: Leading Schools and Communities to Educate All Children
by Phillip D. Lanoue
and Sally J. Zepeda, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., 2018, 173 pp. with index, $33 softcover 

The Emerging Work of Today’s Superintendent: Leading Schools and Communities to Educate All Children is co-authored by Phillip Lanoue and Sally Zepeda. Lanoue was the 2015 AASA Superintendent of the Year® and has served as superintendent of two Georgia school districts. In addition to his work as a school administrator, he has published a variety of articles throughout his career. Zepeda serves as a professor at the University of Georgia, specializing in instructional supervision, teacher evaluations and professional development. She has also authored more than 30 books and many articles relating to various educational topics.

The book is divided into nine chapters addressing different aspects related to the role of the superintendent. Chapter topics range from “Leading Learning” to “Your Balance Is the System’s Balance.” The content and topics are presented in a manner that make the book relevant for a school district leader in rural, urban and suburban district settings.

As stated in the preface, the book “focuses on the changing role of the superintendent who now must lead with new skills in a time when the landscape of communities is shifting, necessitating the mobilization of people through advocacy and activism alongside new partnerships with business, local governmental agencies, and community organizations.”

The organization and structure of the book provide a user-friendly format for the active superintendent moving from task to task throughout the day. Each chapter begins with a list of the specific topics to be reviewed and then separates the content into multiple sub-sections. This approach allows you to easily resume reading in the middle of a chapter or skip chapters as you search for specific information. At the conclusion of each chapter, the authors provide an effective summary and lists of suggested readings for further study.

While the book focuses on items specific to the work of the superintendent, it will provide you resources to utilize and discuss with teachers, community members, board of education members, elected officials and your leadership team. As a superintendent, I found the topics and the organization of the book to be very helpful and full of relevant and current information. 

Reviewed by Justin B. Henry, superintendent, Goddard Pubic Schools, Goddard, Kan.

Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive
by Bradley R. Staats,
Harvard Business Review Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2018, 218 pp. with index, $30 hardcover

Never Stop Learning, written by University of North Carolina Professor of Operations, Bradley Staats, challenges us to build learning capacity in ourselves and our organizations by recognizing and resisting the biases and conventional practices that impede learning.  

Staats argues that we are currently living in a world of unprecedented change where our value as leaders comes not only from what we know, but most importantly from our ability to customize, adapt and innovate. In essence, failing to learn and adapt means being left behind in our current learning economy. Being knowledgeable is not enough, we must become dynamic learners who use our knowledge to build more knowledge 

Citing extensive research from behavioral science, the author contends that real learning is time-intensive and difficult. He focuses on our personal challenges as learners—highlighting our fear of failure, obsession with outcomes rather than processes, expectations for providing answers rather than questions and a desire for action as an indicator of productivity. He reminds us that it is easy to avoid thinking by being busy and that “busyness by itself doesn’t lead to learning.” 

The book is structured around eight elements that the author asserts are essential to dynamic learning.  There is a chapter describing each element, the research that supports it and an engaging story that illustrates putting it into action. The elements include: valuing failure; process rather than outcomes; asking questions rather than rushing to answers; reflection and relaxation; being yourself; playing to strengths; specialization and variety; and learning from others. There are multiple strategies shared for addressing each element – from those that are simple to employ, like “take more breaks,” to ones that are more complex, such as “destigmatizing failure.” 

As educators, we may feel we have a degree of expertise around learning, but this book is a humbling reminder of the biases, roadblocks and ongoing challenges that make learning difficult for all of us. Leaders need to overcome these roadblocks to learning to personally thrive, excel and shape the conditions for organizational learning.  

Never Stop Learning is an engaging and important book. It makes a compelling case and provides a framework for dynamic learning across all sectors of work life. It is highly relevant to educational leaders at all levels and should be widely shared.

Reviewed by Mary B. Herrmann, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

School Improvement for All: A How-To Guide for Doing the Right Work 
by Sharon V. Kramer
and Sarah Schuhl, Solution Tree Press, 2017, 167 pp. with index, $34.95 softcover

In School Improvement for All: A How-To Guide for Doing the Right Work, authors Sharon V. Kramer and Sarah Schuhl provide a framework for continuous improvement, specifically for schools and districts that are currently at risk of being designated in need of improvement by state or federal guidelines. It is geared to support schools that have made few or no achievement gains and have data that has flat-lined. The authors purport that school improvement is possible no matter the school’s size, student demographics, poverty levels and achievement levels, or the amount of resources the staff and students have.

Each chapter culminates with an opportunity for schools and teams to reflect and determine actions that will increase student learning. A rubric guides the reflection process. Finally, questions to consider when doing the work in each chapter allow for collaborative team discussions to further target improvement efforts.

The authors believe teacher teams must do the work and deeply understand the standards they expect students to know and do, develop an assessment system that supports learning, align instructional practices to the learning expectations and provide interventions based on the data they collect as part of the ongoing improvement cycle.

Everyone must serve in a leadership capacity and embrace accountability—students need to be accountable for their learning, teachers accountable to their students and administrators accountable to teachers and students. Staff must work in a collaborative culture and they must focus on results. Sustainability begins with developing highly effective and efficient collaborative teams that engage in the right work.

This book is an excellent resource to assist school improvement teams in designing and implementing a data-driven instructional system, using PLCs to facilitate sustained, measurable learning on the part of all students. 

Reviewed by Diane E. Reed, associate professor and director, Graduate Educational Leadership Program, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, N.Y.

These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools
by Deborah Meier
and Emily Gasoi, Beacon Press, Boston, Mass., 2017, 195 pp., $25.95 softcover

In their book, These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools, Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi take turns making pertinent arguments for the maintenance and reform of our public school system.

Meier is an acclaimed author with more than five years of public education service and she continues to be a leader in the school reform movement. Gasoi is the founding teacher at Mission Hill School in Boston. She is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and co-founder of Artful Education, an organization focused on helping schools improve teaching and learning. 

Every school leader must have a strong concept and understanding of the purpose of public education. Both authors give strong and compelling reasons why the need for public education is even more important to our world today than it was back in the day. The basic theme is to answer the question of why we put children in schools for 13 years of their lives, some even 17 years. We put them there to be empowered citizens to sustain our democracy. 

The authors argue, rather successfully, this theme and that, while standards and tests are not relevant to that goal, learning to ask questions and think is. Beyond test scores and other measures of academic achievement, our schools must prepare young people to actively participate in a democratic society. Treating them as respected members of their school community and teaching them to think critically will greatly enhance the role of public education and make a difference in our society.

The authors rotate writing by chapters and there is a smooth transition from one to the other. School leaders will find this book a great resource for defending and making changes in our public school system and more, and for fully understanding just why we do what we do.

Reviewed by Jim Hattabaugh,
educational consultant, Fort Smith, Ark. 

Why I Wrote this Book ...

“My educational leadership program did not include a course in conflict resolution. So early in my career, I would consult with a more experienced superintendent in a neighboring district when faced with difficult issues. There was no established method to our approach, and I typically felt compelled to act quickly without consideration of all perspectives. During these consultations, I often found that my description of the problem was told as a story that included the human emotions that complicate professional behavior. I came to appreciate the value of an approach that recognizes both the narrative aspect of organizational problems and its value in problem definition and solution generation.”

J. Michael Wilhelm, a retired superintendent in Casco, Maine, and an AASA member since 2004, on writing A Fork in the Road: Narrative Problem Solving for School Leaders (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018)


Digital Leadership
The extent to which central-office administrators’ technology use correlates strongly with digital transformation practices in the district was the subject of an Ed.D. dissertation at St. John’s University in 2018.

Carole L. Polney collected data through assessment tools adapted from the Consortium for School Networking framework that were sent to central-office administrators on Long Island, N.Y. She also interviewed four of the 82 participants.
The author offers suggestions to advance technology in public education, such as changing interviewing and hiring practices for administrators.

Copies of “Digital Leadership: An Examination Between Leadership Styles and Technology Skills and Practice of Central-Office Administrators” are accessible at or 800-521-0600.


Learning Styles

A team of researchers in Greece found no significant correlation between teachers’ judgments of their students’ preferred learning styles and the students’ own assessment, and that the teachers were not using intellectual ability as a proxy for learning style.

Diversity Communications
The National School Public Relations Association’s new toolkit offers school leaders an array of solutions to help plan and implement new and different communications strategies to reach increasingly diverse communities.

Community Connections
A monthly publication from the National School Public Relations Association offers ready-to-use newsletters for school district personnel, newsletters for parents, articles on timely topics and speeches for special occasions.

Restorative Practices
A RAND Corporation research brief found restorative practices were successful in reducing student suspensions in Pittsburgh Public Schools but did not improve academic outcomes.

Math Anxiety
Parents’ anxiety surrounding math was negatively associated with children’s math achievement in early elementary school, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Educational Attainment
The percentage of students who expected their highest level of education to be a bachelor’s degree increased throughout high school, while their parents’ expectation of the same remained constant, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Teacher Personality
An Educational Psychology Review study discovered teacher personality, such as extroversion, may be associated with teacher effectiveness and job burnout.

Baldrige Frameworks
All three versions of the 2019-20 Baldrige Excellence Framework (for business/nonprofit, healthcare and education) are available from the American Society for Quality.

The Baldrige leadership and performance management framework includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating an organization’s processes and results.

STEM Careers
A study found that older children who immigrate to the U.S. from a country where the native language is very dissimilar to English are more likely to focus on STEM subjects as they progress through school.

Social, Emotional and Academic Development
The Aspen Institute has released a report dedicated to the promotion of the social, emotional and academic development of American students with the goal of reshaping learning, focusing on the whole child and increasing educational equity.

Parent-School Involvement
Being unable to get time off work, inconvenient meeting times, no child care and not hearing about school activities they might want to be involved in are the most common reported barriers to parent involvement, according to a brief from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Digital Consortium
AASA’s Digital Consortium will meet three times over the coming months on the following schedule:

» July 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn. (host Donna Wright, Wilson County Schools);

» Oct. 27-29 in Athens, Ala. (host Trey Holladay, Athens City Schools); and

» March 8-10, 2020, in Pewaukee, Wis. (host Mike Cady, Pewaukee School District)

Established in 2014, AASA’s Digital Consortium supports school district leadership in the areas of innovation, creativity and technology.