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A Reading List for the New School Year

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) conference in Des Moines. SAI's mission is to "support, encourage, and develop Iowa's educational leaders and learning." I always enjoy my time in Iowa because I'm so impressed with everything SAI and the state are doing to create the necessary conditions for effective leading, teaching, and learning.

The day before the conference, at the SAI annual award banquet, I was enjoying dinner with my good friend and colleague Troyce Fisher. Troyce's official title is Cohesive Leadership System Director for Iowa, but like most of us, she wears many more hats. As we were eating, Troyce asked me the question she often poses when we're together. "So what books have you been reading recently that have informed your practice?" Troyce's question is one all of us in the field should be prepared to answer, because we know the education landscape is constantly changing.

In response to Troyce's query, I shared what's been capturing my attention lately. However, I was impressed with her responses that I wanted to share them here with you. Troyce also has shared her recommendations on the SAI website.

Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching In Every School, by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan. If there's just one book I'd wish all administrators would read this summer, this one's it!

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, by Tony Wagner. If you liked The Global Achievement Gap, you'll love this tour of schools and workplaces that are successfully developing innovators.

Aligning School Districts as PLCs by Mark Van Clay, Perry Soldwedel and Thomas Many. Using a three-part framework and wonderful examples from the district of Nirvana, this book lays out how to align the district to build a collaborative culture, establish a focus on results, and ensure that all students learn.

How To Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom, by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and Ian Pumpian. A nice companion read to Aligning School Districts that could inform principals and teacher leaders about how to build collective capacity of staff.

Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement, by Rick DuFour and Robert Marzano. A very readable book that identifies practical strategies for leaders at each level of the system in the context of PLCs.

Improving Student Learning When Budgets Are Tight, by Allan Odden. Back Cover Description: A How-To Manual for Achieving Excellence Despite Budget Cuts.

Finnish Lessons: What Can The World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?, by Pasi Sahlberg. Details Finland's 30-year journey to excellence (and not coincidentally they did it while focusing on what Fullan has identified as the "Right Drivers").

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Most innovators are introverts, yet our schools value extroversion to an extreme. A fascinating perspective on how to prevent losing introverts' talents.

Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools, by Roger Schank. A discussion about how to transcend subject-based instruction and move toward 21st century skills through the use of content.

Changing Lives: Gustavo, Sistema, and The Transformative Power of Music, by Tricia Tunstall. An inspiring success story of the rescue of children from poverty in Venezuela through music.

Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling, by Alfie Kohn. Love him or not, you can count on Alfie to make us question our most treasured practices. If nothing else, read the introduction: "Well, Duh!" (Twelve) Obvious Truths That We Shouldn't Be Ignoring."

Thanks for the recommendations, Troyce! As always, you push our thinking in order to improve our collective practice. The field needs more perpetual learners like you. Now I need to stop typing and start reading!

Frederick Brown
Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward

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