Back-to-School Books for Principals

These six reads can inspire you to innovate learning, improve teaching, and more.

August 2016, Volume 39, Issue 12

With school back in swing, it’s easy for principals to get caught up in simply ensuring things are running smoothly. But every great leader knows that there’s always room to improve. One good strategy is to stay up to date, reading well-written, well-researched educational leadership books to improve practice. Fortunately, Principal magazine’s book reviews—written by practicing principals—offer plenty of options. Here are some books reviewed over the past year that can get you thinking about how to improve your school leadership.

Innovate Learning:

What Connected Educators Do Differently
By Todd Whitaker, Jeffery Zoul, and Jimmy Casas
“This book is an easy, yet powerful read for educators at any level. For those newly connected, or looking to connect for the first time, Whitaker, Casas, and Zoul explain how to harness the power of social media to improve schools. They review popular tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, and podcasts as learning tools. The ‘Follow 5, Find 5, and Take 5’ section at the end of each chapter provides readers with five professionals to add to their P2LN, five resources for their professional growth, and five inspirational action steps moving forward.” Read more

Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System
By Barbara K. Given and Bobbi DePorter
“Barbara K. Given and Bobbi DePorter provide a guidebook for how to effectively integrate brain research into a classroom. Excellence in Teaching and Learning begins with an introduction of the brain’s six natural learning systems: social, emotional, implicit, cognitive, physical, and reflective. Then, each system is care-fully examined and paired up with methodology and strategies from the Quantum Learning System to help teachers and schools better serve students.” Read more


Improve Teachers and Staff:

Academic Language Literacy: Developing Instructional Leadership Skills for Principals and Teachers
By Marjorie C. Ringler
“Professional development is an essential process for all educators to continue growing and improving their pedagogical expertise. This book provides relevant examples of how a principal can successfully implement professional development in an identified area of need, and how to coordinate and collaborate with others to make the professional development successful.” Read more

Tapping Into the Skills of 21st-Century School Librarians: A Concise Handbook for Administrators
By Audrey P. Church
“An entire book devoted to the school librarian when we only have one person in this role at our school? I honestly wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend time reading a book to expand my knowledge to improve my supervision/evaluation of just one person. But as I read this handbook for administrators, I was convinced of the impact this individual can have on an entire school.” Read more

See the Big Picture:

Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better
By Anthony S. Bryk, Louis M. Gomez, Alicia Grunow, and Paul G. LeMahieu
“Learning to Improve
is not an easy read or a quick-fix book. The ideas are explained in true depth and the research vernacular gets a bit heavy at times. The book, however, boasts authors who are at the very top of their fields and who bring the principles back to the practical realm. I often found myself stopping to ponder a key point and then making notes about how it could relate to my school and my students.” Read more

The Changing Landscape of School Leadership: Recalibrating the School Principalship
By M. Scott Norton
“Achievement, servicing special needs, implementing change without funding, addressing increasing misbehavior, cultivating a learning climate, and compensating for a lack of role preparation are several areas Norton highlights as significant contributors to a growing list of challenges that principals face. He identifies these contemporary issues not just as problems, but as symptoms of change that represent tasks to be resolved by the school’s leading agent of change—the principal.” Read more

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