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Blog: Stanford-SFUSD Partnership 2015 Winter Reads for Administrators

Stanford-SFUSD Partnership

Ten recommended books for administrator’s reading over the winter break.  The list is based on recent administrators’ requests for research and current problems of practice being discussed in SFUSD. I list the citation, one sentence explaining why I recommend this book, and an abstract from Amazon.

Below are ten recommended books for administrator’s reading over the winter break.  The list is based on recent administrators’ requests for research and current problems of practice being discussed in SFUSD. I list the citation, one sentence explaining why I recommend this book, and an abstract from Amazon.


1. Mathematical Mindsets. Unleashing Students Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages, and Innovative Teaching

By Jo Boaler, 2015


This book would be helpful for administrators trying to understand SFUSD’s policy aimed at de-tracking math courses and actually references SFUSD’s work.




Mathematical Mindsets turns research findings into practical activities and advice. Boaler translates Carol Dweck's concept of 'mindset' into math teaching and parenting strategies, showing how students can go from self-doubt to strong self-confidence, which is so important to math learning. Boaler reveals the steps that must be taken by schools and parents to improve math education for all. Mathematical Mindsets :

2. Data wise, revised and expanded edition: A step-by-step guide to using assessment results to improve teaching and learning


Editors: Kathryn Parker Boudett, Elizabeth A. City, & Richard J. Murnane, 2013


For those administrators interested in a cycle of inquiry which helps them examine systematic data, this book is a great reference.  While the data examined takes place at a school level, the steps are also relevant for a systematic perspective.


In the wake of the accountability movement, school administrators are inundated with data about their students. How can they use this information to support student achievement? This book presents a clear and carefully tested blueprint for school leaders. It shows how examining test scores and other classroom data can become a catalyst for important schoolwide conversations that will enhance schools' ability to capture teachers' knowledge, foster collaboration, identify obstacles to change, and enhance school culture and climate.


3.     Meeting wise: Making the most of collaborative time for educators


By Kathryn Parker Boudett & Elizabeth A. City, 2014


For administrators who love Instruction Rounds and Data Wise, and want to be more efficient and effective in their meetings, I think this book would be a great read.



This book, by two editors of Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning , attempts to bring about a fundamental shift in how educators think about the meetings we attend. They make the case that these gatherings are potentially the most important venue where adult and organizational learning can take place in schools, and that making more effective use of this time is the key to increasing student achievement.


4. Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better


By Anthony S. Bryk, Louis M. Gomez, Alicia Grunow, & Paul G. Lem, 2015


This book would be helpful for administrators who are addressing big, hairy problems of practice, and wants some structures for guiding their improvements efforts. Also, for those administrators who loved Tony Bryk’s work on the five essential supports, this is a must read as this book expresses the next iteration of thinking around school improvement.



In   Learning to Improve , the authors argue for a new approach. Rather than “implementing fast and learning slow,” they believe educators should adopt a more rigorous approach to improvement that allows the field to “learn fast to implement well.”   Using ideas borrowed from improvement science, the authors show how a process of disciplined inquiry can be combined with the use of networks to identify, adapt, and successfully scale up promising interventions in education. Organized around six core principles, the book shows how “networked improvement communities” can bring together researchers and practitioners to accelerate learning in key areas of education.


5. Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance

Editors: Prudence L. Carter & Kevin G. Welner, 2013


Many administrators are trying to get at problems of practice related to race, culture, poverty, and general gaps in outcomes, and this book helps to frame the research and general thinking about these concepts quite well. This one is on my short list to read!




Closing the Opportunity Gap offers accessible, research-based essays written by top experts who highlight the discrepancies that exist in our public schools, focusing on how policy decisions and life circumstances conspire to create the "opportunity gap" that leads inexorably to stark achievement gaps. They also describe sensible policies grounded in evidence that can restore and enhance opportunities. Moving beyond conventional academic discourse, Closing the Opportunity Gap will spark vital new conversations about what schools, parents, educators, and policymakers can and should do to give all children a fair chance to thrive.


6. Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom, Third Edition


By Elizabeth G. Cohen & Rachel A. Lotan, 2014


Many SFUSD teachers, especially SFUSD math teachers, have been using instructional strategies stemming from this research by Cohen and Lotan, known to most as Complex Instruction.



Based on years of research and teaching experience, the new edition of this popular book features significant updates on the successful use of cooperative learning to build equitable classrooms.   Designing Groupwork, Third Edition   incorporates current research findings with new material on what makes for a groupworthy task, and shows how groupwork contributes to growth and development in the language of instruction. Responding to new curriculum standards and assessments across all grade levels and subject areas, this edition shows teachers how to organize their classroom so that all students participate actively. This valuable and sensible resource is essential reading for educators at both the elementary and secondary levels, for teachers in training, and for anyone working in the field of education.


7. The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life


By William Damon, 2009


With so much talk among administrators about concepts relating to social-psychological research like mindsets, belonging, stereotype threat, I would recommend this book by Stanford Professor Damon.



Drawing on the revelatory results of a landmark study, William Damon brilliantly investigates the most pressing issue in the lives of youth today: why so many young people are "failing to launch" -- living at home longer, lacking career motivation, struggling to make a timely transition into adulthood, and not yet finding a life pursuit that inspires them.


Damon shows that the key ingredient for the highly engaged is that they have developed a clear sense of purpose in their lives that motivates them and gives them direction. Based on in-depth interviews, he takes readers inside the minds of the disengaged and drifting kids and exposes their confusion and anxiety about what they should do with their lives. He then offers compelling portraits of the young people who are thriving and identifies the nine key factors that have made the difference for them, presenting simple but powerful methods that parents and all adults can and must employ in order to cultivate that energized sense of purpose in young people that will launch them on the path to a deeply satisfying and productive life.

8. The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children


By Gloria Ladson-Billings, 2009


Many SFUSD administrators reference the aspirational goal of culturally relevant pedagogy. If administrators are interested in this topic, I would recommend this book by Gloria Ladson-Billings.



In the second edition of her critically acclaimed book The Dreamkeepers , Gloria Ladson-Billings revisits the eight teachers who were profiled in the first edition and introduces us to new teachers who are current exemplars of good teaching. She shows that culturally relevant teaching is not a matter of race, gender, or teaching style. What matters most is a teacher's efforts to work with the unique strengths a child brings to the classroom. A brilliant mixture of scholarship and storytelling, The Dreamkeepers challenges us to envision intellectually rigorous and culturally relevant classrooms that have the power to improve the lives of not just African American students, but all children. This new edition also includes questions for reflection.


9. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotype Threats Affect us and What We Can Do


By Claude M. Steele, 2011


Again, if you are an administrator interested in issues related to school culture and climate or students social-psychological well-being, I recommend administrators read this book by Claude Steele.



The acclaimed social psychologist offers an insider’s look at his research and groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity. Claude M. Steele, who has been called “one of the few great social psychologists,” offers a vivid first-person account of the research that supports his groundbreaking conclusions on stereotypes and identity. He sheds new light on American social phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men, and lays out a plan for mitigating these “stereotype threats” and reshaping American identities.


10. The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program: Research Project


By Carol Campbell, Ann Lieberman & Anna Yashkina, 2013


This is the only publication on my list that is not a book, but this is a must read for administrators interested in building a career lattice for teachers and generally supporting teacher professional growth and retention.



Launched in 2007, the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) in Ontario, Canada is a joint initiative between the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) and the Ontario Ministry of Education with shared goals to: support experienced teachers to undertake self-directed advanced professional development; develop teachers’ leadership skills for sharing their professional learning and exemplary practices; and facilitate knowledge exchange for spread and sustainability of effective and innovative practices. Each year, experienced classroom teachers can apply individually or in a team to conduct a TLLP project.