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The School Leader's Guide to Professional Learning Communities at Work (Essentials for Principals)
The School Leader's Guide to Professional Learning Communities at Work (Essentials for Principals)
by Richard DuFour
Edition: Perfect Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars A PLC Digest, March 18, 2012
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For the school leader who wants to investigate the Professional Learning Community (PLC) process, this is a great digest of books written by Richard DuFour and his associates. In 90 pages, the authors concisely describe the PLC process, which is outlined in much greater length in books such as Learning By Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at WorkTM (2nd Edition) ), 281 pages, and Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work: New Insights for Improving Schools [REVISITING PROFES-10TH ANN], 520 pages.

This book's primary audience consists of elementary and middle school leaders, but it is also valuable for administrators in high schools who want to explore the PLC process. But, it is only a digest; the authors state, "In order to lead a PLC, principals must have a deep understanding of what constitutes a PLC and what it does not (p. 3)". Therefore, I recommend that school leaders must also, at the very least, thoroughly read the two books cited in the previous paragraph.

Regrettably, the authors display a habit of misquoting, or taking out of context, several authors, such as D. Goleman et al. Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, K. Patterson et al. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, Robert Evans The Human Side of School Change: Reform, Resistance, and the Real-Life Problems of Innovation (Jossey-Bass Education Series) and Howard Gardner Changing Minds: The Art And Science of Changing Our Own And Other People's Minds (Leadership for the Common Good). It would be more beneficial if they did not include quotations if they are not willing to carefully read these authors and understand their full messages. For example, on page 79, they take out of context and conflate a quotation from K. Patterson et al. (2008) to support their argument that principals should use punishment against teachers who do not comply with the principal's directives. The concept of "punishment" has no place in education; it has gone the way of the strap, the dodo bird and, hopefully, the "zero" (Reeves, Leading Change in Your School: How to Conquer Myths, Build Commitment, and Get Results).

What is more astounding is that they invoke Howard Gardner's work as inspiration to use punishment against teachers if necessary. Gardner is misquoted on page (78), before the misquotation of K. Patterson: Gardner describes "lever" #7 as "Resistance"; these authors state that "strategy" #7 is "Require", a very significant error. The juxtaposition of Howard Gardner's work and the discussion of punishment in the same book result in a cognitive dissonance for the serious educator.

One positive challenge the authors present to readers is to find research that refutes the PLC process. In turn, however, the authors must also carefully research the writers they quote to support their arguments for the PLC process; otherwise, the PLC process may never gain creditability from learning theorists and other educators.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview
New Brunswick
Canada


Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement
Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement
by Richard Dufour
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schooling Iceberg, November 26, 2011
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This collaboration of DuFour and Marzano (DM) has resulted in a fine distillation of both their worlds. Richard DuFour is the leading advocate for Professional Learning Communities. Robert J. Marzano is a leading educational meta-analyst. The book puts in bold relief the weakness of the PLC movement.

PLC's first and foremost claim is "...that the fundamental purpose of our school is that all students learn at high levels" (p.22). Sociologists of education would find that this claim flies in the face of the real purpose of school: the social control of children. Sociologists claim, depending on which theory is considered, that the purpose of schooling is to socialize children into becoming productive citizens of the state. DuFour and Marzano would benefit from reading Linda M. McNeil's Contradictions of Control: School Structure and School Knowledge (Critical Social Thought). The book describes the actual schooling that occurs.

Writ large in this volume is the author's advocacy of a "guaranteed and viable curriculum (GVC)". The phrase is used 22 times. DM describes this curriculum on page 91. What a GVC misses entirely is the hidden curriculum, the truly powerful lessons learned by students. Certainly, students learn academic skills and knowledge over the course of 12 years in public school. However, a GVC represents only the tip of the curriculum iceberg. There is the 90% of the curriculum which lies below the surface; this curriculum is hidden.

GVCs do not take into account the learning not prescribed in curriculum documents. These learnings are everything from using manners and polite behaviour to profoundly debilitating lessons of socioeconomic forces and cultures that are very slow to change, if they ever change. GVCs hold out the promise that students will learn at high levels, but totally ignore the hidden curriculum. GVCs ignore the huge undertow of schooling. I sincerely hope that DM's next volume takes into consideration the hidden curriculum.

In this volume it has become crystal clear that what DM believe is collaboration is really only coerced teamwork. They state, "When educators understand the tangible work products that must be created as a result of their collaboration, they develop greater clarity regarding the nature of their work (p. 84)". DM make several assumptions about teachers work that require the deskilling of teachers. This deskilling is unacceptable to teachers.

True collaboration is a voluntary effort between equals. There is no "must" in true collaboration. Instructional teams may certainly be formed and directed to develop strategies to improve student learning, but it is directed work, not true collaboration. The authors would also benefit from reading The Responsibility Virus: How Control Freaks, Shrinking Violets--and the Rest of Us--Can Harness the Power of True Partnership.

This pseudo-collaboration advocated by leaders in the PLC movement is a bit surprising since this was not the position of Richard DuFour in 1992. In Creating the New American School: A Principal's Guide to School Improvement (Transforming Schools) by Richard Dufour and Robert Eaker, a proto-PLC is developed. They state, "Encourage the collaborators, but do not attempt to force collaboration on those who are not interested (p.17)". We can have directed teacher teamwork to improve student learning or collaboration, but not both.

This book is a great read for PLC aficionados. Just watch out for the schooling iceberg.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview
New Brunswik
Canada
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2012 10:04 AM PDT


District Leadership That Works: Striking the Right Balance
District Leadership That Works: Striking the Right Balance
by Robert J. Marzano
Edition: Perfect Paperback
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational Accidents, October 23, 2011
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In this study, Marzano and Waters (MW) used meta-analysis to investigate the relationship between district leadership and student achievement at the school building level. Their study found that there were positive effects between school district leadership and student achievement. Meta-analysis has many critics. Some describe the process as mixing apples and oranges to discover how tomatoes grow. MW provides technical notes from pages 117 to 139. These notes were inscrutable since I have not yet acquired the specific research skills to understand them.

Their research has led them to advance five district responsibilities (or initiatives). They are: ensuring collaborative goal setting, establishing nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction, creating board alignment and support of district goals, monitoring achievement and instructional goals, and allocating resources to support goals for achievement and instruction (p. 6).

MW also made a perplexing finding, called Defined Autonomy. "Defined autonomy means that the superintendent expects building principals and all other administrators in the district to lead within the boundaries defined by the district goals (p. 8). How Defined Authority should be implemented takes up the rest of the book. MW advocates that school districts become high reliability school districts by tight coupling regarding achievement and instruction (p. 18).

The authors draw on the model of high reliability organizations (HROs). A HRO is an organization that has succeeded in avoiding catastrophe in an environment where normal accidents are expected due to risk factors and complexity (Wikipedia). MW cites organizations such as electric power grids, commercial aircraft maintenance, air traffic control, and nuclear power plants. MW acknowledges that HROs are far removed from education, but uses the concept to advocate for high reliability schools districts.

This begs the question: what educational accidents need to be avoided? The authors did not make a list of educational accidents to be avoided. Uppermost in the minds of parents, students and teachers are the issues of bullying, violence and school shootings. Perhaps MW in their next study could develop a list of educational accidents to be avoided through the development of high reliability school districts.

Schools are social institutions established by law. HROs are technical organizations managed by humans. HROs need high reliability or people may die in accidents. MW tries to combine insights from technical organizations with school districts, similar to meta-analysis.

The authors manage to confuse first-order change with second-order change. HROs require first-order change since changes to avoid accidents are technical in nature. Second-order change requires changes outside of current paradigms. Second-order change will not occur when first-order change, as advocated by MW, is implemented. The authors would benefit from reading Leadership & Sustainability: System Thinkers in Action.

What MW miss, as many educational researchers do, is that schools are almost totally impervious to change. First, they do not take into account that children are legally compelled to attend school. Children are human beings. Making technical changes does not affect their motivation and frequent resentment for being in school.

Second, schools are mostly staffed by teachers who are fallible human beings and who can be resistant to change in the conditions of their employment. What MW proposes as nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction is regarded by teachers as control of their workplace. The authors are typical in bemoaning the Teachers' Union. Unions came into existence in order to redress workplace conditions. Marzano and Waters would benefit from reading Who Controls Teachers' Work?: Power and Accountability in America's Schools and The Human Side of School Change: Reform, Resistance, and the Real-Life Problems of Innovation (Jossey-Bass Education Series). These studies help the reader discover the effects of implementing nonnegotiable goals.

Teachers are professionals who are sometimes managed by leaders who do not grasp the impact of the resistance and resentment of teachers who do not buy in to change. This does not even take into account the response of students to such "noble" nonnegotiable goals. I do hope Marzano and Waters will research and report on educational accidents.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview
New Brunswick
Canada


Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives)
Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives)
by Etienne Wenger
Edition: Paperback
Price: $40.64
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Learning Phantom, October 2, 2011
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This book was a slow, arduous read, but well worth the effort.

I teach at a school that is part of the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) movement. Wenger's book has shed light on why "top-down" implementation of school improvement has failed. The guru of the PLC movement, Richard Dufour (2004), claims that the three big ideas of PLC's are ensuring that students learn, a culture of collaboration and a focus on results. It is in this context that I found Wenger's book valuable in understanding the poverty of the PLC movement.

Wenger claims that communities of practice are learning communities. Are Professional Learning Communities true learning communities as described by Wenger? The answer is no. In a learning community there is interplay between reification and participation. Reification is the artifacts and procedures of previous practice. Participation is the activity engaged in by the practitioner for the organization that results in reification. It is not an either/or model, but dualism. It is within this interplay that learning about practice and the ownership of meaning and identity formation takes place.

Teachers directed by their employer to become PLCs are required to make such large changes in their teaching practices that they become overwhelmed and lost in establishing new practices. The reason for this is that the PLC regime does not consider the requisite identity work and the time required for teachers to own the meaning of new practices. PLCs are not true learning communities.

What about schools? Wenger claims a community of practice emerges when an organization sets forth a structure to accomplish its goal: "... the existence of a community of practice is a response to an institutional mandate, it is not the mandate that produces the practice, it is the community" (p. 244). The practices in which teachers are engaged are developed over time in the process of reification and participation.

Schools represent an effort to manage learning and the acquisition of knowledge regardless of public policy statements. PLCs represent an extreme example of knowledge management by viewing students as disembodied intellects. There is no consideration given to the identity formation of students. According to the PLC mantra, teachers should lead the learning process so that students learn more. Under the PLC regime students can repeat information given and are deemed to have acquired essential learning. However, according to Wenger, unless the student owns the meaning of what is learned, it is not true learning (p. 265).

Wenger rightly judges that "Learning and teaching are not inherently linked. Much learning takes place without teaching, and indeed much teaching takes place without learning" (p. 266). Because teaching cannot control its own effects, Wenger advocates that teachers must be opportunistic and work at recognizing the "...emergent character of learning" (p. 267).

Wenger advocates developing architecture for learning. This architecture will afford for the three modes of belonging: engagement, imagination and alignment. The interplay and trade-offs allow for identity formation and the acquisition of meaningful knowledge. He further describes the dimensions for learning architecture. These dimensions are found in the dualities of participation/reification, designed/emergent, local global and identification/negotiability (p. 231-236).

The reader will find some of Wenger's theory (along with other theorists) reflected in Gherardi's Organizational Knowledge: The Texture of Workplace Learning (Organization and Strategy) and Mitchell and Sackney's Sustainable Improvement. Wenger's book is well worth reading for those in public education who want to better understand the phantom of learning in school.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview
New Brunswick


Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning
Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning
by Michael J. Schmoker
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.61
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fuzzy Focus, September 12, 2011
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This book is 236 pages long and is divided into 7 chapters. It is easy to read, although the print could be darker to help readers (like myself) whose eyesight is weak.

I recognized the educational regime Schmoker describes since it is the one I grew up with as a student. Schmoker advocates a return to teaching practices used by Madeline Hunter and further developed by people like Fisher, Frey and Burns. It is an elegant and simple regimen of creating an "anticipatory set", guided practice and checking for understanding; this is how I was taught in public school. I also learned how to read for meaning. I was taught how to do close reading by annotating the text followed with writing. This simple process has served me well over the years.

I started public school in Nova Scotia in 1959 at age five. It was a two-room school house with kindergarten through third grade in one room with one teacher and fourth through sixth grades in the other room with one teacher. The school had a wooden floor, a pot-bellied stove and two outhouses. Fortunately for me, modern teaching methods hadn't yet arrived. My teachers taught me in a very simple and focused fashion.

Sadly, only 30% of children who started school in Nova Scotia in 1959 completed the twelfth grade. Schmoker's advocacy of whole-class instruction does not address the challenge to those students who are genuinely unable to learn without differentiated instruction. This is the rub; how can we ensure all students' learning needs are met so that they complete grade twelve and are prepared for a career and citizenship?

My colleagues would be interested to know that the word standard(s) is used 246 times in this book. Why? Because the educational system in the United States is awash with educational standards; there are too many standards to put a strong focus on student learning. Thus Schmoker advocates--as do many prominent educators--developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum.

In general terms, such a curriculum requires the development of power standards. Power standards are selected from either state or national standards. These are found in standard-based education curriculum documents in educational jurisdictions which have Standards Based Education. This is not the case in many jurisdictions in Canada; Canadian educational policy makers need to be careful not to adopt standards-based education tools when such standards do not exist. Additionally, no good can come from adopting the angst reflected in the writings of some prominent American educators.

Schmoker, typical of many writers in education, asks how teachers can go on adopting new initiatives when simple and focused teaching will result in great gains in learning. The answer is simple: teachers are also employees of school districts. We must do what we are told. We are not policy and decision makers. We have to implement policies and programs as directed by our employers. Schmoker could learn much from reading Richard Ingersoll's Who Controls Teachers' Work?: Power and Accountability in America's Schools.

This book is a good read for those who long for a return to a simple and focused teaching practice.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview
New Brunswick
Canada


Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning
Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning
Price: $14.57

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fuzzy Focus, September 11, 2011
This book is 236 pages long and is divided into 7 chapters. It is easy to read, although the print could be darker to help readers (like myself) whose eyesight is weak.

I recognized the educational regime Schmoker describes since it is the one I grew up with as a student. Schmoker advocates a return to teaching practices used by Madeline Hunter and further developed by people like Fisher, Frey and Burns. It is an elegant and simple regimen of creating an "anticipatory set", guided practice and checking for understanding; this is how I was taught in public school. I also learned how to read for meaning. I was taught how to do close reading by annotating the text followed with writing. This simple process has served me well over the years.

I started public school in Nova Scotia in 1959 at age five. It was a two-room school house with kindergarten through third grade in one room with one teacher and fourth through sixth grades in the other room with one teacher. The school had a wooden floor, a pot-bellied stove and two outhouses. Fortunately for me, modern teaching methods hadn't yet arrived. My teachers taught me in a very simple and focused fashion.

Sadly, only 30% of children who started school in Nova Scotia in 1959 completed the twelfth grade. Schmoker's advocacy of whole-class instruction does not address the challenge to those students who are genuinely unable to learn without differentiated instruction. This is the rub; how can we ensure all students' learning needs are met so that they complete grade twelve and are prepared for a career and citizenship?

My colleagues would be interested to know that the word standard(s) is used 246 times in this book. Why? Because the educational system in the United States is awash with educational standards; there are too many standards to put a strong focus on student learning. Thus Schmoker advocates--as do many prominent educators--developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum.

In general terms, such a curriculum requires the development of power standards. Power standards are selected from either state or national standards. These are found in standard-based education curriculum documents in educational jurisdictions which have Standards Based Education. This is not the case in many jurisdictions in Canada; Canadian educational policy makers need to be careful not to adopt standards-based education tools when such standards do not exist. Additionally, no good can come from adopting the angst reflected in the writings of some prominent American educators.

Schmoker, typical of many writers in education, asks how teachers can go on adopting new initiatives when simple and focused teaching will result in great gains in learning. The answer is simple: teachers are also employees of school districts. We must do what we are told. We are not policy and decision makers. We have to implement policies and programs as directed by our employers. Schmoker could learn much from reading Richard Ingersoll's Who Controls Teachers' Work?: Power and Accountability in America's Schools.

This book is a good read for those who long for a return to a simple and focused teaching practice.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview
New Brunswick
Canada


The Ethical Teacher (Professional Learning)
The Ethical Teacher (Professional Learning)
by Liza Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: $33.76
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Start!, June 15, 2011
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Elizabeth Campbell develops the case that the moral agency of teachers is not just the inevitable state of affairs, "but instead a professional quality exemplifying ethically good practice". According to Campbell, the basis for a renewed sense of professionalism in teaching will come out of teachers individually taking responsibility and developing explicit ethical knowledge. Based on empirical research, she offers vignettes of teachers who struggle to reflect on their teaching practices and how their efforts impact students.

She spends considerable effort describing the principle-based role of moral agency and she is critical of the relativism of some current ethicists. A teacher standing before students day in and day out brings with them their character and sensibilities, often without knowing the moral impact they have on their students; this cannot be avoided. However, Campbell's challenge to the teaching profession is to bring to the forefront explicit professional, ethical knowledge.

Campbell cites B.A. Sichel to describe the professional teacher as one who takes on the moral responsibility of ensuring a just and humane school. It is here I part company with the author because schools are governed by provincial authorities along with local advisory councils (depending on the latest fashion), not teachers. The employers of teachers have a role to play in ensuring just and humane schools.

Teachers have very little control of their workplace as discussed in Richard Ingersoll's Who Controls Teachers' Work?: Power and Accountability in America's Schools. They have so little control that it is necessary for teachers to unionize in order to avoid arbitrary action by the employer in many realms. Campbell claims that unionization is "the single most significant hindrance to ethical professionalism". To Campbell, unions reinforce the norm of teacher collegiality often at the expense of students.

The employers of teachers (though some may claim they do not want unions) also need unions/federations in order to control the schoolhouse. Campbell recommends individual teachers have the courage and commitment to challenge and correct teachers whose unethical conduct harms students, but such action may not be agreeable to the employer because it may disrupt the smooth running of the school. A collective agreement affords the employer the means to moderate the behavior of these individual professional teachers. Collectivized teachers are as much a benefit to the employer as to teachers, which results in good public order.

I would love to see a great writer such as Campbell develop a comprehensive description of the ethical teacher in light of the collective reality of teachers. Other professionals such as doctors, lawyers and engineers are, for the most part, self-employed. Collectivizing is a natural outcome of having the same employer.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview, New Brunswick
Canada


The Moral Life of Schools
The Moral Life of Schools
by Philip W. Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $30.84
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Teacher is the Message, June 10, 2011
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The teacher is the message--that is the main lesson in The Moral Life of Schools. Today, many educational policy-makers seem to live in a Pollyanna world where academic achievement can be improved by treating students as disembodied intellects. Educational jargon abounds: rubrics, formative and summative assessments, essential learnings, standards-based testing, best practices, geometric interventions, scaffolding--the list is endless. Yet these all miss the central reality that our "classrooms are morally charged environments" and that "education is a moral endeavor."

Regardless of the subject taught, teachers are, for good or ill, the individuals who hold the greatest power in the classroom. Their character, choices in pedagogical strategies, compassion, professional insight, academic background, and commitment to their role impact the lives of their students, day after day, year after year. The teacher is the message.

The findings in this book are part of the Moral Life Project which lasted three years. Several schools and eighteen teachers were involved and, during this time, researchers observed the physical structure of the schools and classrooms, teachers and students, and other elements. Interestingly, the authors do not claim to have made any great discoveries. They have, however, presented an excellent case that establishes the moral ambiguity that makes up much of the moral life of schools.

A number of recommendations are made concerning the opportunities teachers have to reflect on the moral enterprise in which they are involved. In the fast-paced, sometimes hurly-burly atmosphere of the classroom, teachers have the opportunity to reflect on their choices, the mundane events of the classroom, and even how classroom objects might give clues about classroom life. This reflection requires time and a skill set which can be developed over time. The result should be a sort of Zen awareness of the moral lessons learned over time both by the teacher and students. In this connection, the authors cite Emerson's concept of "heavenly days" when we learn virtue, wisdom, and poetry unawares.

The authors describe the moral demands of teachers and suggest that not everyone who wants to be a professional teacher has the "right stuff." Any person contemplating a career in teaching would be well-served to read this description of what it takes to be a good teacher. This can be found on page 233.

A sociolinguist or ethnographer might find this book an easier read than a math teacher like myself. The book introduces concepts which take a little bit of learning, but the time spent is well worth the effort.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview, New Brunswick
Canada


Leading With Trust: How to Build Strong School Teams
Leading With Trust: How to Build Strong School Teams
by Susan Stephenson
Edition: Perfect Paperback
Price: $27.82
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trusting Teachers, May 24, 2011
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Canadian educator Susan Stephenson's book provides numerous activities and resources for the leader who wants to lead his or her school with trust. A prominent feature of this book are the 74 activities a leader can use to increase the level of trust in schools. I also like the many graphics which are provided, and the reader may access a number of resources at go.solution-tree.com/leadership. Stephenson ends the book with a scenario of restructuring a middle school and a high school into one comprehensive educational center.

I was impressed with Stephenson's ability to integrate the works of other authors such as Covey The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, Lencioni The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series), and Lewin. One exception is that she misinterprets the research of Anthony S. Bryk and Barbara Schneider found in Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement Stephenson's claim is that increased trust among teachers increases student achievement. Bryk and Schneider, however, researched three types of relationships: teacher to teacher, teacher to principal, and teacher to parents. Stephenson discusses mostly the principal to teacher(s) relationship.

It is fashionable these days to leverage trust in the service of increasing student achievement, but is it ethical? Stephenson claims that "High trust in one relationship isn't always reflected in others. It is situational and fragile" (p. 81). Trust requires a person to be vulnerable to the outcomes of other peoples' behavior. There is a psychological cost in trusting others which is only justified by the type of relationship such as the marriage relationship. When trust is betrayed, then the trusting individual must pay the psychological price. Student achievement is not worth the potential psychological cost.

Teachers may learn to follow a leader (principal) who is trustworthy. That is, these teachers experience consistent and compassionate leadership and, over time, are inclined to follow the principal because their own professional satisfactions are met and the atmosphere of the school improves. This will result in a positive learning atmosphere and, at least theoretically, increase student achievement. For this type of leader, this book is heartily recommended.

Finally, Stephenson, like many authors of trade publications, shows her misunderstanding of commitment. In this she certainly lines up with Bryk and Schneider (p. 138). She writes, "Although there will be bumps along the way, there must be avenues for staff members who cannot or will not commit themselves to the skills, knowledge, and attitudes of a high-trust school to leave with dignity" (p. 186). Commitment cannot be coerced or it is not commitment. That's why teachers have unions to protect teachers from dismissal for not being "committed." A teacher is dismissed for documented failure to carry out their contractual duties and after much support to change behavior.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview
New Brunswick
Canada


A Repair Kit for Grading: Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades with DVD (2nd Edition) (Assessment Training Institute, Inc.)
A Repair Kit for Grading: Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades with DVD (2nd Edition) (Assessment Training Institute, Inc.)
by Ken O'Connor
Edition: Paperback
Price: $37.03
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Assessments in Wonderland, May 6, 2011
A Repair Kit for Grading (Second Edition)
by Ken O'Connor 2010

The second edition of this book is approximately 38 pages longer than the first edition in 2007. O'Connor has included additional material at the end of each chapter under the headings of "Teacher Vignette" and "Policy Example" as well as a discussion guide at the end. Altogether he has introduced about three more pages of research findings made since the publication of the first edition. O'Connor has also modified several of the figures (ex: Figures 3.2, 3.5 and 3.6 in the second edition) without explaining the changes. He has rewritten three pages from the first edition.

The author makes the curious claim in both editions that "the mathematical problem with zeros is that they represent very extreme scores and their effect on the grade is always exaggerated (p. 96, p. 86)". Well, arithmetic means (averages) are calculated by adding all the numbers in the data range and dividing the sum by the number of data points in the data range; if the range has a zero then it must be included. There is no mathematical problem. O'Connor is more accurate when he claims that "the most important issue is that zeros in the record render grades ineffective as communication because the resulting grade is an inaccurate representation of the student's achievement (p. 96)"; it is a communication problem, not a mathematical problem. This is an example of a polemic going too far against the current use of percentages and other outdated means of communicating student achievement.

O'Connor does make a stab at challenging the use of percentages. Plunked near the bottom of page 72 we find, "This means that to be consistent with a standards-based system the use of the percentage system should be eliminated". This statement is not found in the first edition (compared with page 67 of the first edition) and it begs the question why O'Connor continues to discuss percentages, averages, etc. in his book. This author and others would do well to remember that many teachers work with percentages and even zeros because the employer requires a number grade on the report card at least quarterly. Students are to be shuffled through the school system and graduated on time and under budget. To accomplish this, percentages must be used.

In his new material O'Connor divines the next generation of assessments: "moderated scoring process". He cites the work of Linda Darling-Hammond who is an exponent of the moderated scoring process (p. 68). It is a process by which teams "address performance standards together". Such an assessment system will not be adopted in many districts which require teachers to submit numbered grades on report cards on a regular basis. However, many school jurisdictions talk about such a process, but O'Connor points out it would take a lot of time and money.

Dr. John Merks
Teacher
Riverview High School
Riverview
New Brunswick
Canada


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