Reading & Resources

School Administrator, August 2019

Book Reviews
Bush-Obama School Reform: Lessons Learned
edited by Frederick M. Hess
and Michael Q. McShane, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2018, 238 pp. with index, $32 softcover

Bush-Obama School Reform: Lessons Learned is edited by Frederick Hess and Michael McShane and is a nine-chapter overview comparing the education policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Each chapter is written by a different college professor or educational researcher reviewing a variety of topics related to the educational policies of the two presidents.

While Bush and Obama might have disagreed on a variety of policy issues, the book effectively describes the similarities of the two regarding education policy. In multiple chapters, the authors articulate how No Child Left Behind led directly into Obama’s Race to the Top competition and how both presidents attempted to address low performing schools through mandates and financial incentives. 

Because each chapter is written by a different author, there is some repeat of information; however, this was helpful in being able to compare and contrast the views of multiple educational researchers on the same topic. Whether the topic was school choice or high-stakes testing, detailed research was provided throughout the book outlining the success or failure of these policies.

As a school administrator during NCLB and RTTT, this book provided me an effective look back at both programs and reminded me of both the challenges and positive steps forward this era of school reform provided. Many times, as school superintendents, we get focused primarily on local and state policies. I would recommend this book as an effective summary of federal education policy over the last five decades and the many lessons that have been learned. 

Reviewed by Justin B. Henry,
superintendent, Goddard Public Schools, Goddard, Kan.
The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools
by Jonathan Zimmerman and Emily Robertson, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill., 2017, 116 pp., $22.50 softcover

This book, The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools by Jonathan Zimmerman and Emily Robertson, is not a quick, easy read. The authors write in a style that is similar to what you would find in a dense college textbook or a doctoral dissertation. It is a book that prompts reactions, annotations, notes and thoughts.

Throughout this text, the reader is repeatedly presented with the dichotomy of the classroom teacher’s current predicament. Do I, as a teacher, feel safe in the school and classroom, so much so, that I can explore controversial subjects with my students? Or, do I, as a teacher, risk losing my job by exploring controversial subjects with my students? As a teacher and administrator, I personally have been in touch with both of those questions during the last 34 years.

As an administrator, this book could be useful for a professional learning community. It would serve as a common text for an educational book club with middle school and high school history and science teachers. It could also be a starting point for exploring policy changes with members of the board of education and legal team. It is a book that will prompt discussions—it will be incumbent upon the stakeholders to respectfully participate in such dialogues. Access, purpose and audience will certainly come into play.  

Reviewed by Hope S. Blecher, adjunct professor, Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J. 

From Goals to Growth: Intervention & Support in Every Classroom
by Lee Ann Jung,
ASCD, Alexandria, Va., 2018, 155 pp. with index, $27.95 softcover

The pull-out and replacement model of delivering curriculum is no longer the norm for teaching students who need support or interventions. As education moves further away from this practice, inclusion to the fullest extent possible is the preferred method for instructing all students.  

All educators seek ways to make the educational experience a positive one for each student with varied levels of success. In From Goals to Growth, Lee Ann Jung, co-founder of ASCD’s Student Growth Center and educational consultant, outlines a framework for an interdisciplinary growth plan creating cross-curricular goals and instructional strategies uniting special education goals to the general education curriculum for greater student growth.  

IEP teams include representative teachers with general and special education expertise. Jung's premise is for a closely knit team approach to create the strategies in order to provide services for the whole child across all curriculum areas. The team works to create interdisciplinary goals celebrating a student's strengths and ways to measure progress toward stated goals across all subject areas.  

The strength of Jung's book lies in the examples provided. She explains how to determine increments of growth, ways to write measurable goals that cross disciplines and strategies for teams to share performance information to maximize student learning and growth. 

Jung understands the reluctance that many teachers have regarding the collection and use of data. She emphasizes the need for "input from all settings conduct a comprehensive analysis of student progress..." Collecting and graphing data on a regular basis from all team members across the curriculum produces a powerful picture. Staff members, as well as the student, will have a comprehensive view of progress and can move forward with future goal-setting. 

Jung is a strong advocate for an interdisciplinary team approach for developing IEP goals and school-wide instruction and intervention programs. From Goals to Growth is a teacher-friendly resource that can be used to guide a team to revise its current method of creating goals to one that reflects a whole-child interdisciplinary manner of achieving growth.

Reviewed by Edythe B. Austermuhl, superintendent, Berlin Township School District, West Berlin, N.J.

Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative Justice
by Maisha T. Winn,
Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2018, 216 pp. with index, $30 softcover

Maisha Winn opens Justice on Both Sides discussing a viral cell phone video from 2015 showing a high school girl being dumped out of her desk and dragged across the floor by a school police officer. The crime was willful defiance for refusing to give up a cell phone, the girl was African American and the officer was white. Winn’s own questions, “What resources, other than arrest, were available?” and “How could the adults have responded differently?” became the impetus for writing the book.

Research was conducted by Winn while she was Distinguished Chair in English Education and Professor of Language and Literacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She now serves as co-director of the Transformative Justice in Education Center at the University of California, Davis, where she recently received the Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community. 

Winn suggests that “restorative justice circles” offer a “restorative justice paradigm shift” that has the potential to bring students and adults together in a way which “allows everyone involved to hear one another, often for the first time . . . and to collaboratively identify potential pathways to make things right.” One high school senior circle leader put it another way, saying that restorative justice “is making the wrongs right, but in a way that both sides can come to an agreement.”

Winn shares the insights of teachers, students, administrators, support staff and parents who each look at restorative justice through their own lenses. That gives the reader the experience of being immersed in what Winn learned during her extended time on campus. She also shares content area suggestions for teachers to use this model in teaching English, mathematics, science, history and other subjects.

She notes that the school in Wisconsin was wise enough to provide training in how to effectively use restorative justice circles, but Winn sees the difficulty of developing a collective mind set when there is not enough ongoing training for everyone involved, including student leaders.  

In developing the model, Winn stressed how important it is to recognize that history, race, justice and language matter, and not recognizing the importance and value of each can lead to issues that could have been avoided. Sometimes, simple word choice can make a difference. For example, instead of focusing on a student and calling him “the problem,” it could be more effective to have everyone look at “the situation.” That moves participants from blame to collectively working together to improve the situation in everyone’s best interest.

Winn closes the book with this message: “If we engage in processes that allow us to listen to one another — really listen to one another, learn from one another, and elevate our awareness of context in our rich and textured lives — we begin the process and the practice of restoring justice. We owe this, at least, to our children.”

Reviewed by Bob Schultz, adjunct professor and co-chair of the Brandman University School of Education Advisory Board, Sacramento, Calif.

Leading Change Together: Developing Educator Capacity Within Schools and Systems
by Eleanor Drago-Severson
and Jessica Blum-DeStefano, ASCD, Alexandria, Va., 2018, 167 pp. with index, $30.95 softcover

The first words in this book title, Leading Change Together, speak to the core understanding of authors Eleanor Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano that leaders’ best work is most often a by-product of teams working together, sharing a core set of beliefs and supporting each other during challenging times. As many superintendents have experienced, leadership can be a lonely place and leading change can be even more isolating. But leading change can happen, according to these authors, as long we attend to the individuals in our organization and in so doing, we build “trust, capacity, and collegiality” with an eye for developmentally appropriate practices.

In this work, the authors extend and expand their robust book of scholarship dedicated to leadership development and leadership research. Consistently, I have found Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano to be grounded in the real world of school leadership and, as a result of their teachings, their contributions to be relevant, approachable and applicable. Their work holds real promise for making school cultures productive places that also find a way to be attentive to the needs of adults who work in those spaces. School system leaders will likely find a welcoming tone in this work and its emphasis on care.

The authors commit substantial space to considerations as to how we can build a supportive work culture. I have found that many well-intended leaders, myself included, have focused eagerly on substantive ideas only to become frustrated with others in the organization as they remained unconvinced of the values that were so clear, but not. Almost as a gentle nudge—a reminder—to the reader, the authors open the book with an important discussion around the way we might build an organizational culture for capacity building. It can be done — and it must be so — if we want to lead for change, but the authors affirm that when leaders fail to build a sense of trust and caring in their organizational cultures, they may not expect others to take risks or engage in innovative practices.  

Once the organizational culture is welcoming and inclusive, according to the authors, then leadership can begin considering ways to sustain and extend innovative practices. The authors offer specific and helpful guidelines as to how leaders can sustain a developmentally appropriate approach to leading change. For these authors, a significant part of sustaining change is in how leaders intentionally cultivate a mechanism for inviting, receiving and acting on feedback. In this spirit, the authors describe key elements of constructive and inquiry-oriented feedback so leadership can understand how the work is going and what effect it is having on the team. 

Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano offer today’s school leaders approachable and balanced work for leading change. Although leadership can be lonely, the authors remind us that it does not have to be a solitary effort. Actually, the authors compel the reader to remember that the first order of leadership is about building community where diverse perspectives are invited, risks are supported and caring for each other is essential. Interestingly, and not coincidentally, that description reminds me of a highly successful classroom. I suspect that kind of description is of a place, school or learning community where we would all like to work. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano offer the reader a plan for building such a place.  

Reviewed by Zach Kelehear, vice president for instruction and innovation, Augusta University, Augusta, Ga.


Leverage Leadership 2.0: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools
by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo,
Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif., 2018, 403 pp. with index, $36.95 softcover

The premise of Leverage Leadership 2.0 by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, chief schools officer for Uncommon Schools, will be a familiar refrain for most superintendents: Truly-effective leaders do not succeed in some idiosyncratic, magical way. Success results from a practical set of decisions, using critical levers, which anyone can follow if the levers are well understood.

Most superintendents also know the levers. They include collaborative planning, data-driven instruction, observation and feedback, and student and staff culture. The uniqueness of this text is the very specific and methodical way that Bambrick-Santoyo goes about explaining the levers: see it, name it, do it.

The core ideas are boxed in for emphasis. There are professional development video clips accompanying each chapter, modeling exemplars by a vast array of professionals. The book includes actual workshop scripts to roll out, training schedules and calendars, templates and “one pagers” that consolidate the most important information to remember about every topic.

So much of leadership literature is written at a high level of generality. Bambrick-Santoyo presents essential concepts in such a concrete and specific way that they become replicable.

See it.  Name it.  Do it.  I like it.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Thomas, interim department chair, Instructional Leadership and Professional Development Department, Towson University, Baltimore, Md.

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: The Power of Opportunity to Change Young Lives
by Milbrey W. McLaughlin,
Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2018, 267 pp. with index, $33 softcover

For those of us seeking ways to eliminate opportunity gaps, You Can’t Be What You Can’t See has dramatic answers — they just aren’t easy. Milbrey W. McLaughlin, professor emeritus at Stanford University, shows the impact of helping young people see new opportunities through new eyes. This book tells how an Out of School Time (OST) program in Chicago’s Cabrini Green has transformed hundreds of lives since the 1980s.  

Graduation rates doubled, college-going increased and virtually all participants, whether they graduated or not, learned important life skills that enabled them to create positive middle-class families today.    

What made the program such a success? Opportunities, belonging and mentors who “never gave up” on students. Twice weekly tutoring. Nearly constant out-of-school opportunities during evenings, weekends and the summer. Leadership that built positive beliefs into every part of the program. And a positive, strengths-based approach that helped students see and envision positive futures.  

Two keys stand out: opportunities to see positive images of adult success through field trips, camping and college visits, and communities of practice where mentors, tutors, junior staffers and adults worked as a team to create wraparound support and beliefs. They had a common mission and developed consistent coherent messages. They worked together to learn how to do even better, to solve problems of practice. When they had a problem, they attacked it as a team.

For those interested in eliminating opportunity gaps, this book points the way. You Can’t Be What You Can’t See provides the existence proof, architecture and core processes. For those interested in improvement science, this book shows how to create a network improvement community. Together, they figured out what worked and kept making it better and better. As a result, hundreds of lives were transformed.  

Reviewed by Larry L. Nyland,
retired superintendent, Seattle, Wash.

Why I Wrote this Book ...

"One of the most valuable skills a school leader can possess is the ability to confront an employee effectively regarding an issue or concern. The confrontation management protocols in my book will help school administrators become more effective facilitators of confrontational conversations while preserving quality, trusting relationships with employees. I also outline various tactics employees sometimes use to sabotage meetings and offer guidance on how to navigate them effectively.”

Sam J. Miller, superintendent, Central Rivers Area Education Agency, Cedar Falls, Iowa, and AASA member since 2006, on writing Confrontation Management (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019)



Shared Superintendents
A recent doctoral dissertation at Drexel University examined perceptions of shared superintendents’ instructional leadership in six rural school districts in Iowa engaged in three sharing agreements.

For his Ed.D. in educational leadership, Benjamin Wenger asked teachers and principals to rate the instructional leadership capacity of shared leaders in areas of resource provider, instructional resource, communicator and visible presence. Elementary teachers consistently rated them lower in all areas than their content and secondary area peers. Statistically significant differences existed between teachers and principals in resource provisions and visibility.

Overall perceptions were considered to be positive, which coupled with the potential for fiscal savings, make the shared superintendent model a viable possibility for rural school districts, Wenger said.

Copies of “Rural Public School Educators’ Perceptions of the Shared Superintendent’s Instructional Leadership” are available or 800-521-0600.


SEL Preparation

A new report, “Scaling Up Social Emotional Learning Through Teacher Preparation” offers information on how preservice and inservice teacher training can support good teaching practices and implement SEL in schools.

The report paints a picture of what SEL looks like when integrated into the school day.

A study to understand the impact of students assessing their own work found that self-assessment has a positive effect on self-regulated learning.

Parent-Teacher Meetings
A controlled trial in two schools in southern districts of Bangladesh found that test scores of students in an intervention that included monthly face-to-face meetings between parents and teachers, increased at the end of two years.

NAEP Trends
Forty-six percent of 8th graders scored at or above proficient in the National Assessment of Education Progress’ first trend report on the knowledge and use of technology and engineering.

Summer Counseling
A report from the What Works Clearinghouse found that summer counseling interventions conducted after high school graduation and before college enrollment had potentially positive effects on credit accumulation and persistence.

Home Visits
On average, schools that systematically implemented parent teacher home visits experienced decreased rates of student chronic absenteeism and increased rates of student English and math proficiency on state assessments.

Baldrige Leadership Awards
The 2020 Baldrige Foundation Leadership Awards will recognize outstanding individuals, leaders and supporters who embody Baldrige leadership values and principles and who have provided outstanding service to the Baldrige community.

Nominations can be made through Sept. 30, 2019, at

Equity Guide
Offering detailed sets of effective equity-focused leadership moves organized into 10 key areas, the NYC Leadership Academy’s new Equity Guide is intended to serve as a source of inspiration and a resource for equity-focused strategic planning.

Revenues and Costs
In fiscal year 2016, expenditures per pupil in the 100 largest public school districts by enrollment ranged from $6,175 to $24,109.

Humanitarian Nominees
AASA seeks nominations by Oct. 25 for the 2020 Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award, which honors leadership in equity and excellence. To qualify, AASA members must demonstrate a commitment to the advancement and mentorship of women and/or minorities into positions of educational leadership.

Visit the Awards and Scholarships section at or contact Stephanie St. John at

SEL Climate Tool
The Middle School Kindness Challenge’s fall cycle, led by Stand for Children with AASA as a lead partner, offers schools serving 4th through 7th graders a chance to participate in lessons on social-emotional learning.

A free online school climate tool provides resources on four key pathways: peer relationships, positive mindsets, student empathy and cyber kindness.

Archival Donations
AASA, which considers 1865 its year of origin, is in the midst of completing the association’s historical archives as part of the special collections library at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

We are asking our veteran members who may be in retirement or nearing retirement to let us know what AASA-related materials may be in their possession relating to governance and programming initiatives as we seek to fill in gaps in our current collection.

Contact with a general idea of what you might have in your possession.