14 Books Education Leaders are Reading Right Now


Written by Compass Learning’s Director of Education Policy, Melanie Pritchett and Account Executive, Bella Gilbert

Having just returned from an executive leadership conference sponsored by the Texas Association of School Administrators – always an inspiring event – we were struck by the depth of knowledge and leadership capacity in our state. We find the same to be true when attending education events across the country. In our experience, education leaders are amazingly well read and well versed in all facets of school operations and district transformation. Book study is an integral part of their professional life and they’re eager to share ideas, discuss and debate research methodology, and apply the innovative strategies with strong likelihood of success.

Successful leaders are successful readers. Lifelong learning is in their DNA and it contributes significantly to their ultimate success.

So just what would you find if you were to browse the Educational Administrator’s Best-Seller List for summer 2013? What education topics are trending? What classics remain on most lists? And, are there new releases that are compelling and noteworthy?

Of the topics trending in education circles this summer, two are prominent on most lists – educating students of poverty and education reform. Among the recommendations on many professional organization lists you will find the following titles:

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough

“The story usually told about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character:  skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. This book introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories, and the stories of the children they are trying to help, Tough traces the links between childhood stress and life success.”

Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Johathan Kozol

“Jonathan Kozol explores the urgent issues that confront our urban schools – a devastating race-gap, a pathological regime of obsessive testing and drilling students for exams instead of giving them the rich curriculum that excites a love of learning – as he shares the stories of the children he has studied over the years. Why certain children rise above it all, graduate from high school and do well in college, while others are defeated by the time they enter adolescence, lies at the essence of this work.”

“Multiplication Is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit.

“As MacArthur award-winning educator Lisa Delpit reminds us, there is no achievement gap at birth as she reflects on two decades of reform efforts that have left a generation of poor children of color feeling that higher educational achievement isn’t for them. In chapters covering primary, middle, high school, and college, Delpit concludes that it’s not that difficult to explain the persistence of the achievement gap. In her wonderful trademark style, Delpit outlines an inspiring and uplifting blueprint for raising expectations for other people’s children, based on the simple premise that multiplication, and every aspect of advanced education, is for everyone.”

 Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It by Eric Jensen

“Veteran educator and brain expert Eric Jensen takes an unflinching look at how poverty hurts children, families, and communities across the United States, and demonstrates how schools can improve the academic achievement and life readiness of economically disadvantaged students.”

Motion Leadership in Action:  MORE Skinny on Becoming Change Savvy by Michael Fullan

A 2013 NAESP Conference speaker, Michael Fullan “shares success stories from the U.S. and around the world to illustrate how educators can use a small number of specific actions to generate momentum for lasting change.”

Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge by Michael Fullan

In Stratosphere, Michael Fullan merges his expertise in the processes of educational change with a deep understanding of the new technologies to present a powerful plan for rethinking and reinventing education in America.”  -Brendan Kelly, Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, University of Toronto

World Class Learners:  Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Yong Zhao

“To succeed in the global economy, students need to think like entrepreneurs. Zhao unlocks secrets to cultivating independent thinkers who can create jobs and contribute positively to the globalized society.”

Engaging Students: The Next Level of Working on the Work by Phil Schlechty

“This innovative and practical book is focused on helping teachers become increasingly successful in designing engaging work for their students. Schlechty contends that rather than viewing schools as teaching platforms, schools must be viewed as learning platforms. Rather than seeing schools as knowledge distribution systems, schools must be seen as knowledge work systems. Rather than defining teachers as instructors, teachers must be defined as designers, leaders, and guides to instruction.”

The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman

“Drawing on nearly 20 years of experience managing IDEO, Kelley identifies 10 roles people can play in an organization to foster innovation and new ideas while offering an effective counter to naysayers. Among these approaches are the Anthropologist—the person who goes into the field to see how customers use and respond to products, to come up with new innovations; the Cross-pollinator who mixes and matches ideas, people, and technology to create new ideas that can drive growth; and the Hurdler, who instantly looks for ways to overcome the limits and challenges to any situation.

The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction by Robert J. Marzano

“Though classroom instructional strategies should clearly be based on sound science and research, knowing when to use them, and with whom, is more of an art. In The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction, Dr. Marzano presents a model for ensuring quality teaching that balances the necessity of research-based data with the equally vital need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. He articulates his framework in the form of 10 questions that represent a logical planning sequence for successful instructional design.”

The New School Management by Wandering Around by William A. Streshly, Susan Penny Gray, and Larry E. Frase

“This book cites more than 20 well-constructed research studies that show how management by wandering around improves student discipline, raises teacher efficacy, and boosts student achievement. Data collected through paper checklists or electronically via mobile devices, enters a district database that tracks initiatives being integrated into classroom instruction, allowing administrators to effectively monitor the fidelity of implementation efforts across a district.”

The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner

A classic read with lasting implications, “The Global Achievement Gap, situates our school problems in the larger context of the demands of the global knowledge economy. With insights gained from interviews with business leaders, reviews of new research and extensive classroom observations in the country’s leading suburban schools, he analyzes performance by considering the skills the next generation will need in the workplace. In this new paperback edition, Wagner includes new strategies and examples of how school districts are moving forward to implement his groundbreaking ideas. This is a must-read for anyone interested in seeing our young people achieve their full potential.”

Two New Books Garnering National Attention

In the new and noteworthy category, two new books garnering attention on the national talk show circuit are compelling reads for women with interest in executive leadership and anyone interested in the history of public education and education reform in the United States.

Lean In:  Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

” Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has a powerful message for superintendents. Sandberg shares important stories about building confidence, finding mentors, allowing one to fully engage and participate, laughing at the ironies, being an opportunist and a quick learner, recognizing institutional rigidity and becoming a knowledgeable leader in the workplace.”

First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School by Alison Stewart

“Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., defied the odds and, in the process, changed America. In the first half of the 20th century, Dunbar was an academically elite public school, despite being racially segregated by law and existing at the mercy of racist congressmen who held the school’s purse strings. These enormous challenges did not stop the local community from rallying for the cause of educating its children. Dunbar attracted an extraordinary faculty: one early principal was the first black graduate of Harvard, almost all the teachers had graduate degrees, and several earned PhDs—all extraordinary achievements given the Jim Crow laws of the times. Over the school’s first 80 years, these teachers developed generations of highly educated, high-achieving African Americans, groundbreakers who included the first black member of a presidential cabinet, the first black graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, the first black army general, the creator of the modern blood bank, the first black state attorney general, the legal mastermind behind school desegregation, and hundreds of educators.

“By the 1950s, Dunbar High School was sending 80 percent of its students to college. Today, as with too many troubled urban public schools, the majority of Dunbar students struggle with reading and math. Journalist and author Alison Stewart, whose parents were both Dunbar graduates, tells the story of the school’s rise, fall, and path toward resurgence as it looks to reopen its new, state-of-the-art campus in the fall of 2013.”

 What education-related books are you reading this summer? Tell us about them in the Comment field below.

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