Reading & Resources

School Administrator, June 2019

Book Reviews
Collaborative Leadership: Six Influences That Matter Most
by Peter M. DeWitt,
Corwin,Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2017, 205 pp. with index, $32.95 softcover

In Collaborative Leadership: Six Influences That Matter Most, author Peter DeWitt, a Visible Learning trainer for John Hattie, defines his collaborative leadership framework and then proceeds to delve into six influences with effect sizes over .4 that positively impact collaborative leadership.

The influences he chose are instructional leadership (.42), collective teacher efficacy (1.57), assessment-capable learning (1.44), professional development (.51), feedback (.75), and family engagement (.49).

DeWitt points to multiple case studies, includes practical tips (e.g. the flipped faculty meeting), vignettes from other sources such as blog posts, recommendations from other organizations (such as the National PTA) and cites ample research throughout the book. He does well to include the point of view of the audience and not just the individual in a formal leadership role. The best example of this is, not surprisingly, chapter four: Assessment Capable-Learners, in which the focus is clearly from the point of view of the learner.

The audience is primarily principals, or those who design professional learning for principals, and the author is careful to expand collaboration to mean all associated with the school community, both internal and external.

While DeWitt clearly states that he selected influences that are most directly related to collaboration, it could possibly have been a better book if he took the top effect sizes and studied effective collaborative leadership practices to support those. An effect size of .42 barely meets the threshold for a year’s growth. It would seem there could have been a discussion around a concept that better leverages student growth. 

Reviewed by David Moyer,
superintendent, Elmhurst School District 205, Elmhurst, Ill.

Educational Inequality and School Finance: Why Money Matters for America’s Students
by Bruce Baker,
Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2018, 280 pp. with index, $34 softcover   

The author of Educational Inequality and School Finance, Bruce Baker is a Rutgers Graduate School of Education professor where he studies and teaches school finance. Besides his textbook on finance, he is most known for his research and recommendations on state educational finance systems.

Baker has accumulated a wide spectrum of information on state finance systems, especially matters which impact equity between school districts and racial groups. He proposes a plan involving separating non-residential properties from school taxes to improve equity. He offers other proposals for revising federal and state funding for education.

The author presents the case for systematic analysis of funding systems and presents alternative means for realizing equality and stable revenue. However, he also acknowledges that “(s)tate school finance systems are necessarily the product of political deliberations, and thus have the potential for judicial oversight, where the role of advocates and analysis is to create pressure and introduce evidence to ‘bend’ these systems toward equity and adequacy.” Another factor is the economy as the downturn for most states during 2007-09, which caused a decay in education funding progress.
Superintendents will find some solace in the myth-busting arguments about money and education presented in this book. There are a series of assertions which are flatly rejected by the author’s research. One example is that “how money is spent is much more important than how much is available.” After demonstrating that schooling (whether public, private, charter, for-profit, etc.) spends funds in very similar ways, the point is made that schools cannot spend what they do not have and that, until adequacy is reached, spending decisions are extremely limited.

Superintendents and school business managers will likely have an interest in this volume, although they probably inherently know most of the conclusions. State and federal policymakers and reformers are a prime audience if they have any intention of understanding Educational Inequality and School Finance.

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

Educational Leadership and Music: Lessons for Tomorrow’s School Leaders
edited by Terri N. Watson, Jeffrey S. Brooks
and Floyd D. Beachum, Information Age Publishing Inc., Charlotte, N.C., 2017, 299 pp., $45.99 softcover

Educational Leadership and Music presents evidence that music is an "antidote" for bureaucratic schools that demand conformity, ridicule creativity and narrow the curriculum to a barren passionless educational menu to raise test scores.

Music heard by millions of young people (from hip-hop and jazz to gospel and country) portrays what young people feel and often have experienced. It should have a powerful influence on education leadership. The authors point to the fact that “Music making demands creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration — the very skill set that business leaders and corporate education reformers claim to value.” Too often, “the rote learning and monochromatic delivery of lessons” produces faceless clones “who may learn a mathematical formulae, yet cannot produce an original imaginative thought.”

The main theme of this book is that leaders must forge connections with the individuals they lead. To connect schools and student culture, the authors urge education leaders to utilize music to spark collective movement toward cultural connections. “Music, like sport, is a common field of interest for many; a bridge that can unify and create connections amidst strangers.” For example, the Beatles were young people essentially writing music that connected with other young people. “This theory asserts that leaders must understand and acknowledge the culture in which they work, and align their practices with the needs and culture of the population they lead.”

Music can be a personal resource to education leaders, helping them solidify ideas and shaping beliefs. The authors show examples of how music can help individuals grow and develop their sense of self, offering inspiration. They believe the discourse of hip-hop can serve as a cultural impetus to provoke social change and transformation in urban schools. 

Recognizing that schools are becoming more and more prescriptive and standardized, the authors find that it is becoming harder “to accommodate the diverse needs of all children beyond the single outcome measures of student achievement as test scores.” Nevertheless, the individuals we need are most likely to come from school systems artistically transformed into places for creativity and joy.  

This book looks to music for inspiration for future education leaders. Each chapter challenges mainstream discourse.

Reviewed by Louis Wildman, professor of education leadership, California State University, Bakersfield, Calif.

How Schools Work:  An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education
by Arne Duncan,
Simon & Schuster, New York, N.Y., 2018, 225 pp. with index, $26.99 hardcover

In How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education, Arne Duncan begins with a lie we tell in American education—that children have the same educational chances and opportunities, regardless of where they live. Later in the book, he calls out the problem by sharing “The truth is that we not only don’t value our teachers. It’s that we don’t value our kids.” He identified this lie from the start of his work in education, but especially through his more than seven years as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools and his seven years as U.S. Secretary of Education.  

Throughout this book, Duncan shares the high and the low points of public education. His mother, Sue, provided him with the foundation for understanding how education can make a difference for our children and the importance of good teachers. He learned this by growing up at her afterschool program on the South Side of Chicago. He saw firsthand the difference a few city blocks made in the trajectory of a child’s life.

Duncan identifies the progress that has been made, first through No Child Left Behind and then through Race to the Top. Although educational reform is working, he acknowledges that these national policies were not without their downsides and that we still have a lot of work to do. The importance of not just the stick, but the carrot as well was a reoccurring theme. More money for education and focusing on making the best teaching force are two goals we need to continue to work toward.  

One of the most moving quotes was from former President Barack Obama, who told Duncan, “Just do what you think is right for kids and let me worry about the politics.” Many stories included finding the way to make things that are good for kids work, from afterschool programs to providing teachers with the materials they need. There are ways around the barriers to doing good work.  

Duncan ends the book with five things everyone can do to improve education for all of our children.  

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

Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America
by James Fallows
and Deborah Fallows, Pantheon Books, New York, N.Y., 2018, 432 pp., $16.95 softcover

From 2012 to 2017, James and Deborah Fallows, a husband-wife team of authors and correspondents for The Atlantic, traveled around the United States in a small, single-engine airplane. Their goal was to visit communities to listen to stories of the people coping with disruptions in their economy, work and lives. It was the Fallows’ hope to identify “some kind of composed narrative about the backbone and character of the region and maybe beyond that, to help explain the character of country.”

This fascinating study of small- to medium-sized cities across the breadth of America chronicles the ways in which resilient, enterprising Americans and immigrants crafted success out of difficulty. The stories document how people looked at potential adversity and converted it into a basis for new industry, new lives and amazing success. The Fallows listened to the people in these communities and share their unique stories in fascinating ways.

Among many stories, Our Towns identifies the key role of educators who participated with parents, political leaders and business leaders to develop people and support a thriving revitalization of their communities. This book realistically demonstrates the grit and determination necessary to convert adversity into advantage. 

One of the key elements of success in each community, summarized in their 10½ signs of civic success, is the presence of “distinctive, innovative schools.” Of course, they outline the ways that teachers, principals and superintendents worked to accomplish their mission in collaboration with others. Notably, public libraries were vital partners in this effort.

School leaders are encouraged to explore Our Towns as an inspiring source of support, ideas and encouragement for their work. Beyond national headlines about fear, anger, racism and discord, James and Deborah Fallows report that Americans of varying ethnicities, economic status and political views are indeed capable of finding solutions that work.

Reviewed by Brian L. Benzel, adjunct professor, Whitworth University, Spokane, Wash.


The Role of Leadership Educators: Transforming Learning
by Kathy L. Guthrie
and Daniel M. Jenkins, Information Age Publishing Inc., Charlotte, N.C., 2018, 349 pp., $45.99 softcover

Kathy Guthrie and Daniel Jenkins, authors of The Role of Leadership Educators, contend that leadership education is evolving and that leaders have a duty to provide professional development specific to advancing the practice. They suggest that there are a great variety of leadership resources available for study and provide a very extensive catalog of references. 

However, this is not a book that would be of value to the working superintendent. The subject matter is aimed at those who would teach about the philosophy of leadership. It does not deal with practical examples of the development and application of leadership in school districts. 

The book does deal with learning and teaching situations in leadership course classrooms. Some of those examples are interesting and practical, but the general approach is removed from the understanding of leadership appropriate to the world of the superintendent.

Reviewed by Frank Kelly,
program director, Council of Ontario Directors of Education, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Take Time for You: Self-Care Action Plans for Educators
by Tina H. Boogren,
Solution Tree Press, Bloomington, Ind., 2018, 139 pp. with index, $29.95 softcover

Take Time for You: Self-Care Action Plans for Educators is a resource for educators who understand that perhaps the best thing they can do for students is to take better care of themselves. Tina Boogren, who has experience as a classroom teacher, English department chair, teacher mentor, instructional coach, professional developer, building-level leader, author and national speaker, is well-qualified to write this book. She understands the pressures of juggling professional and personal commitments.  

Self-care has a variety of personal benefits, including boosts to both physical and emotional health. We know self-care is a critical component of stress management. Teaching is complex and difficult and exhausting. Educators can better support students when their own needs are being met.  

The book’s chapters build on one another, starting with a self-care survey and running through what Boogren terms a “ladder of needs.” The ladder rungs, in the form of chapters, cover a hierarchical set of needs and structured questions help the reader identify when needs are not being met. Boogren then provides specific strategies to work through ladder’s rungs. The reader develops, tries out and then reflects on an action plan before moving to the next rung. The final rungs are self-actualization and transcendence. These rungs focus on living one’s healthiest, happiest and most-fulfilling professional and personal life.

Boogren writes with an empathetic style that made me nod my head in agreement as I turned the pages. The book is presented as a self-guide, but it can certainly be used as a group exercise over the course of several weeks or months. It is not a book to only be read—constructive personal change needs the active participation of writing, planning, acting and reflecting that is prompted in the material. 

Reviewed by Marilyn King, deputy superintendent for instruction, Bozeman Public Schools, Bozeman, Mont.


Work-Life Balance
For her doctoral dissertation at Marquette University in 2017, Nicole White conducted a narrative analysis of the work-life balance of the 26 percent of superintendents in Wisconsin who were female.

Her study focused on the personal and professional histories of female superintendents with children. Participants were asked to identify what balance means for women, how they balance their work and family and what commonalities these women share in their personal and professional lives relating to career trajectories.

Findings confirmed women have a choice in their career decisions, that balance is different for each woman and that stages of career and family play an impactful role in what balance looks like. The study also identified traits found to be common among the participants that have helped them to find their balance and describe what balance looks like for women superintendents.

Copies of “Work-Family Balance: A Narrative Analysis of the Personal and Professional Histories of Female Superintendents with Children” are available or 800-521-0600.


Enrollment Trends

The National Center for Education Statistics released a report that projects enrollment in elementary and secondary schools will increase by 4 percent from 2015 to 2027.

The report also shows that the number of high school graduates increased by 15 percent between 2002 and 2013. That rate is projected to increase another 5 percent by 2028.

Measuring Progress
A new fact sheet from REL Mid-Atlantic suggests the pros and cons of commonly used student growth measures in educator evaluations, such as student growth percentiles and educator impact models.

Little Libraries
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of its first venture, the Little Free Library organization is conducting events, an awards program and giveaways throughout 2019.

Fire Awareness Videos
The End Family Fire Scholarship competition challenges high school and college students to create a video bringing awareness to the issue of family fire and safe gun storage. Winning entries will receive a $5,000 scholarship. Video submissions are due by June 16.

Racial/Ethnic Groups
A new resource from the National Center for Education Statistics and the American Institutes for Research updates patterns in education by racial/ethnic groups. The report found students are increasingly likely to finish high school and attend college, although progress varies among groups.

Rural Districts
A report on the challenges and opportunities of rural school districts increasing their digital technology and a case study of a one-to-one initiative in Utah are two of CoSN’s new resources supporting rural districts.

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

Financial Success
Discover and Discover Education have launched a free financial literacy curriculum for educators that provides step-by-step navigation and learning activities that will equip middle and high school students with skills and habits.

Summer E-Edition
AASA members next month will receive a special electronic edition of School Administrator featuring the best of the magazine’s articles and columns appearing in 2018-19.

An e-mail announcement linking readers to the page-turning e-edition will be sent on July 1.

Aspiring Principals
AASA is partnering with the National Association of Elementary School Principals to help superintendents build their principal pipeline. National Aspiring Principals Academy will use a blended learning format facilitated by nationally recognized educational leaders and will explore key issues and skills for today’s principalship.