Monday, June 18, 2018

School Board Talk-5 Books for School Board Members

This year, as I leave the Board of Education, I've been thinking about what might help school board members, and candidates fulfill their public trust.    So, in this fifth post on  School Board Talk, I'm listing five of my favorites education books.   Serving on a school board effectively is hard work.   Its not a job for people who think they can simply apply what they've learned from pundits and what they learned in their own educational career. 

You can't meet your full potential as a school board member unless you study public education deeply.   Read before you run; read new books constantly.  Share what you learn and for God's sake use it.   Here are some of my favorites. If you have your own favorites, please share them.

Measuring Up, Daniel Koretz  This Harvard professor of educational statistics examines the misuse of educational statistics.  Koretz is a proponent of proper use of standardized testing, but an eloquent advocate against the common misuse of those statistics.   Koretz's book derives from his statistics course for graduate students in the school of education.  It is literate, thoughtful, and informative.   Perhaps the best work on educational statistics.

In Visible Learning, Hattie reports the results of years of study of compilations of education research.   This book was recommended to our board by our then new superintendent Jett.  Hattie is a recommended read for school board members, because he exposes us to the need for skepticism and caution in evaluating both new approaches and old to education reform. 

Hattie points out that advocates for change often fail to compare the "effect size" of their proposed reform to the educational equivalent of the placebo.   When exposed to ordinary teachers using ordinary curriculum students make average advances.   If the median average increase in mathematics in a third grade class is  one year's growth, then we cannot say that a new reform math curriculum that advances median students by one year is all that successful.   If we are going to expend the financial and organizational costs that accompany reform, we ought to be utilizing techniques that increase student performance by far more than that.  

He writes, "one of the fascinating discoveries throughout my research for this book is discovering that many of the most debated issues are the ones with the least effects
."  It is difficult for school boards and their leadership to discern whether reforms are paying dividends.   How do we measure progress?  What questions do we ask when our administration presents pictures of kids learning and tells us that the pictures represent the good work that is occurring in our schools?



Doubling Student Performance  and Finding the Resources to Do It. (Odden) Odden is a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA), Director of Strategic Management of Human Capital, and codirector of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Odden and his research team have studied a number of schools and districts from around the country that have "doubled student performance" and closed the achievement gap on state tests over the past five to seven years. Teams of successful and performance-focused educational leaders focused on key strategies which have helped them to dramatically improve student learning.
 
In Visible Learning, Hattie reports the results of years of study of compilations of education research.   This book was recommended to our board by our then new superintendent Jett.  Hattie is a recommended read for school board members, because exposes us to the need for skepticism and caution in evaluating both new approaches and old to education reform.   Hattie points out that advocates for change often fail to compare the "effect size" of their proposed reform to the educational equivalent of the placebo.   Exposed to ordinary teaching using ordinary curriculum make advances on the average.   If the median average increase in mathematics in a third grade class is one year, then we cannot say that a new reform math curriculum that advances median students by one year is all that successful.   If we are going to expend the financial and organizational costs that accompany reform, we ought to be utilizing techniques that increase student performance by far more than that.   He writes, "one of the fascinating discoveries throughout my research for this book is discovering that many of the most debated issues are the ones with the least effects."   

School boards tend to be super gullible when it comes to believing that their schools are making great progress.   How do we measure progress?  What questions do we ask when our administration presents pictures of kids learning and tells us that the pictures represent the good work that is occurring in our schools.  


Organizing Schools for Improvement  Byrk and others.   "This book by current and former researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) provides a detailed analysis of why students in 100 public elementary schools in Chicago were able to improve substantially in reading and math over a seven year period and students in another 100 schools were not. Using massive longitudinal evidence, the study yields a comprehensive set of school practices and school and community conditions that promote improvement, noting that the absence of these spells stagnation."

In his work on Effective Supervision  Marzano argues that effective teaching must be developed over ten years or more in an environment that supports professional development and excellence. He contends that many teachers are not realizing their full potential, because they are developing teaching skills on a hit-and-miss basis, without the effective support of their school, their peers and their supervisors.  Effective teaching, he argues, requires continuous, deliberate efforts by the entire learning community.    He explores five categories of efforts to develop teachers:

     (1) a well-articulated knowledge base for teaching,
    (2) focused feedback and practice,
    (3) opportunities to observe and discuss expertise,
    (4) clear criteria and a plan for success, and
    (5) recognition of expertise

Each of these five really depend, in large part, on the way in which the school and school system support effective teaching.  It is possible, then, that we are spending way too much time arguing about how to get rid of teachers, and not near enough time discussing how to reform schools and school systems so that they develop the good teachers that we need?

   It's Being Done, Academic Success in Unexpected Schools. and How it's Being Done. are part of Karen Chenoweth's education trilogy.  Her books constitute three of the best books for school board members. A former education reporter for the Washingon Post, Chenoweth embarked on a multi year research project visiting schools that have significantly outperformed their demographics.  With the Education Trust, Chenoweth identified a number of traditional public schools across the country that display educational statistics significantly superior to other similar schools.   She then studied these schools on location, interviewing teachers, principals, and community members.  Her books distill the strategy adopted by those special leaders and give school board members a reason to believe that "It's Being Done." 

See also: