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Cage-Busting Leadership (Educational Innovations Series)

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ISBN-13: 978-1612505060
ISBN-10: 1612505066
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Editorial Reviews

Review

In Cage-Busting Leadership, Rick Hess challenges our educational leaders to take on the laws, rules, and regulations that prevent them from implementing true transformational changes to our educational systems. Citing many examples of leaders who have busted out of the cage, Hess illustrates the tough decisions that can be made to provide the quality education that we seek for our students. Cage-Busting Leadership is not for the faint of heart. --Dan Domenech, executive director, American Association of School Administrators

Cage-Busting Leadership should be required reading for every school leader in America. Our schools need people who understand how to break down barriers, enabling good teachers to do great work and students from all backgrounds to learn and thrive. This book provides a framework, common language, and real-world examples of how to do just that. --Becca Bracy Knight, executive director, The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems


Impassioned leaders throughout our education system are frustrated by routine and a lack of support. In many cases they are ill-equipped for their crucial work. Rick Hess is a trailblazing scholar who explores a path forward to help leaders break the status quo. --Michael F. Bennet, Colorado senator, and former superintendent, Denver Public Schools

This is not just a how-to manual--it is a why-not manifesto. If you can’t lead by fighting for the rights of youth, then you should not lead. This book both affirms this credo and indicates many ways in which to achieve this obligation. --John E. Deasy, superintendent, LAUSD

Rick Hess raises the bar by challenging leaders to aim for specific education reforms, and he eliminates the most common excuses for mediocre systems by proving that most barriers can and have been overcome already. --Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, superintendent, Douglas County School District


Rick Hess’s new book, Cage-Busting Leadership, invokes images of Hulk crushing bars designed to hold him back. --Sarah Rosenberg, Education Sector

The book will help education leaders think outside the cage when developing solutions to difficult problems that we all are facing with regard to budget and reaching higher levels of performance. --Terry Holliday, Kentucky Commissioner of Education

Cage-busting Leadership is full of valuable insights into the ability of cage-busting education leaders to solve the seemingly intractable problems of our K-12 system. --Dan Fishman, Philanthropy Roundtable

From the Back Cover

“I believe that two things are true. It is true, as would-be reformers often argue, that statutes, policies, rules, regulations, contracts, and case law make it tougher than it should be for school and system leaders to drive improvement and, well, lead. However, it is also the case that leaders have far more freedom to transform, reimagine, and invigorate teaching, learning, and schooling than is widely believed.” In his travels across the country, Rick Hess has met school and system leaders who have shared stories about evading, blasting through, or reshaping unnecessary and counterproductive constraints. Drawing on these stories, and with his sharp eye, Hess shows current and aspiring leaders how they can cultivate and sustain powerful cultures of teaching and learning. A practical and entertaining volume, Cage-Busting Leadership will be of profound interest and value to school and district leaders—and to everyone with a stake in school improvement. “Rick Hess challenges our educational leaders to take on the laws, rules, and regulations that prevent them from implementing true transformational changes to our educational systems. Citing many examples of leaders who have busted out of the cage, Hess illustrates the tough decisions that can be made to provide the quality education that we seek for our students. Cage-Busting Leadership is not for the faint of heart.” — Dan Domenech, executive director, American Association of School Administrators “This is not just a how-to guide, it is a why-not manifesto.” — John E. Deasy, superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District “Rick Hess is a modern-day Mark Twain. He distills the truth and renders it understandable, humorous, and palatable in the process.” — James W. Guthrie, superintendent of public instruction, Nevada and senior fellow and director of education policy studies, George W. Bush Institute “Cage-Busting Leadership should be required reading for every school leader in America. Our schools need people who understand how to break down barriers, enabling good teachers to do great work and students from all backgrounds to learn and thrive.” — Becca Bracy Knight, executive director, The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems Frederick M. Hess is resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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Product Details

  • Series: Educational Innovations Series
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Education Press (February 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612505066
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612505060
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An educator, political scientist and author, Rick Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include The Cage-Busting Teacher, Cage-Busting Leadership, Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age, The Same Thing Over and Over, Education Unbound, Common Sense School Reform, Revolution at the Margins, and Spinning Wheels. He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog "Rick Hess Straight Up" and is a regular contributor to The Hill and to National Review Online. Rick's work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and National Affairs. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind. Rick serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review board for the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Silver on April 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hess's approach to sharing the strategies and successes of state and district leaders who seized opportunities to cut through red tape and refocus education on students is accessible and enjoyable. The value in this book is not just that it highlights the need to bust through cages real and imagined, but that is offers concrete examples of ways to do it. To Hess's credit, he doesn't union bust or amplify the differences between labor and management, but rather reminds the reader that there are ways forward that focus everyone's attention on the most important part of education--students.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Petrilli on March 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
In writing Cage-Busting Leadership, Rick Hess busts through many shibboleths of the school reform movement: That union contracts make real change impossible; that state and federal mandates tie school leaders in impossible knots; that only in charter-like settings can innovators get results. While contracts, laws, mandates, bureaucracies, and politics make school improvement harder than it should be, none of these should be used as excuses. With the right attitude--and the right know-how--leaders can bust through all of these cages, argues Hess.

As a result, this is an inherently empowering book. It says to superintendents, principals, and other administrators: Reclaim the power that is rightfully yours; don't take the status quo as a given; and don't take no for an answer. No one would ever mistake Rick Hess for Oprah Winfrey, but their message is the same: You can do it!

Buy the book. Read it cover to cover. Pass it along to friends and colleagues. And start busting some cages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steve Peha on April 12, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rick has done a great service with this book: he has put a metaphor and a name to a phenomenon so many of us have experienced but haven't been able to easily identify. Rick's metaphor of "the cage" is apt for two reasons: Many of us in education do feel as though we are caged by rules, regulations, policies, and a morass of red tape; but perhaps more importantly, we have developed the mindset that the "cage" is smaller, tighter, and tougher to unlock than it really is. Sometimes, it isn't even there at all.

I don't know how many times I have been told "You can't do that!" when I have tried to make a positive change in something related to helping teachers or kids. More often than not, however, when I have been shown the policy or even a federal or state law, nothing I am doing violates it. It's simply that the people I am working with think that a particular activity breaks a particular rule. Often they have never even read the rule. But they think a rule applies in a restrictive way.

This is the cage that Rick is talking about: the belief we have that certain things simply are not allowed.

The challenge here is that the cage is a myth. And the problem with a myth is that because it isn't real, we often don't know it's there and even when we do, it's very hard to do something about it. In this particular case, the myth is a mindset, a way of thinking that translates into a way of being that says, "You can't change that!" or "That's against the rules!" This is why Rick's book is so important: it names the myth; it gives us a metaphor to describe it, and many, many examples of how it works and how to work through it.

Now we all have a way of talking about something that really does block change in our schools.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tom Greene on February 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
Most Americans know our education system is broken, especially in light of all the rules, regulations, and stifling bureaucracy. If we want a world-class education system, these rules, regulations, and bureaucracies must be changed, removed, or streamlined--thereby creating an environment where great schools flourish. According to Rick Hess, the rules and regulations are cages that can demoralize leaders and prevent any real progress to effectively educate our nation's youth.

However, Cage-Busting Leadership provides an immediate solution, that transforms the way we should think about educational leadership. Rick makes the argument that leaders should and can bust these cages. Actually, reading through the many stories of effective educational leaders chronicled in the book, we find that the cage is pretty brittle and easy to break--it just takes some courage.

If you care about the future of education: read this book and share it with your friends and family. This book provides critical insight into the power of a persistent and creative leader who will not be deterred by bureaucracy. Hess not only provides examples of great leaders, but creates a guide for aspiring leaders and reformers on how to cage-bust. This book provides a refreshing, solutions-oriented approach to solving our educational crisis through cage-busting leadership. We can change education now--it just means getting beyond the culture of can't and busting the cage.
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By shelfishness on August 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you have read one Fred Hess book, you have read them all. While Cage Busting Leadership offers some good suggestions, most of his sound advice and revolutionary thinking is concentrated in the first two chapters. The remainder of the book then recycles ideas and uses anecdotes from the same sources repeatedly. Additionally, while I am all for thinking outside of the box, Hess fails to examine logistics, realities, or even examine smaller scale changes. His suggestions for reform are often short-sighted or large-scale, implying that other change is just not worth it. In fact, this book is just not worth it.
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