Getting It Done: Leading Academic Success in Unexpected Schools

by Karin Chenoweth and Christina Theokas, describes in clear and helpful detail what leaders of successful high-poverty and high-minority schools have done to promote and sustain student achievement. MoreIt follows two books by Karin Chenoweth: It’s Being Done, which established that the work of educating all children to high levels is possible, and How It’s Being Done, which examined the structures and processes necessary to support academic success. Getting It Done turns to the crucial issue of school leadership, exploring the background, beliefs, practices, and actions of thirty-three effective school principals from twenty-five different schools.

The primary methodology underlying the research is in-depth case studies. To supplement the observations and interview protocol, the authors also administered two well known surveys to see how the principals compared to other principals: The Schools and Staffing Survey, Principal Questionnaire, administered to a nationally representative sample of principals every three years by the U.S. Department of Education, and the Star Urban Administrator Survey, developed and administered by the Haberman Foundation and used by urban districts around the country to identify and select leaders. The data reveals that these leaders are not superheroes. These are “regular” school leaders with varied educational backgrounds and experiences working in diverse school contexts. What they do is not rocket science —they guide instruction, manage the building, and create a climate and culture in their buildings that supports learning— but how they do it makes all the difference. The expertise they have developed can be learned by other administrators who are willing to honestly discriminate between excellence and mediocrity, have the courage to do things differently to improve, and the discipline to reflect on what factors lead to success and what can be learned from failure.

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