Books To Read Over Break

Enhance your principalship during the holidays with these easy reads.

December 2017, Volume 41, Issue 4

Winter break is fast approaching. On top of relaxing, and spending time with family and friends, take some time to catch up on professional reading. Start with these books reviewed in Principal magazine this year.

1. Design-Based School Improvement: A Practical Guide for Educators
By Rick Mintrop. Harvard Education Press, 2016, 272 pp.

Design-Based School Improvement serves as a practical guide for school leaders who want to create lasting change and improve schools from the inside, rather than relying on outside consultants and prepackaged solutions that may lack “context sensitivity,” which author Rick Mintrop says is at “the base of all successful improvement.”
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2. Cool Things to Do If a Bully’s Bugging You: 50 Classroom Activities to Help Elementary Students
By Catherine DePino. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016, 113 pp.

Bullying prevention is a relevant topic in elementary schools that deserves much more than discussion. It requires student engagement, strategies, and the opportunity to practice what to do and say if a student is being bullied. The author of Cool Things to Do If a Bully’s Bugging You: 50 Classroom Activities to Help Elementary Students goes one step further and also explores how students can “transfer the knowledge about positive things to do to prevent and deal with bullying to all areas of their lives.”
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3. The Formative Five: Fostering Grit, Empathy, and Other Success Skills Every Student Needs
By Thomas R. Hoerr. ASCD, 2016, 200 pp.

Hoerr identifies success skills needed to thrive in society: empathy, self-control, integrity, embracing diversity, and grit. This was a quick read with practical information and resources to develop and enrich these foundational skills with students. It fit well with my beliefs related to a growth mindset and the importance of leading this research with our students.
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4. Personalizing 21st Century Education: A Framework for Student Success
By Dan Domenech, Morton Sherman, and John L. Brown. Josey-Bass, 2016,122 pp.

With chapters titled “Personalizing the System, Not Just the Classroom” and “Making Assessment Meaningful in 21st Century School Systems,” this book is genuinely positive and helpful. The closing chapter, “Transforming the System, Not Just the School,” brings the collection of ideas proposed by the authors into focus using final suggestions from essential questions posed throughout the book. With their careers as superintendents and curriculum director of large districts, their firsthand knowledge about what’s involved in this process is offered at a granular level and from the satellite view.
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5. When School Policies Backfire: How Well-Intended Measures Can Harm Our Most Vulnerable Students
By Michael A. Gottfried & Gilberto Q. Conchas. Harvard Education Press, 2016, 222 pp.

The various case studies described in this book address a wide range of areas of education reform. Topics such as accountability, school closure, and technology programs are discussed in detail. Throughout each of the five chapters that focus on the case studies, we learn how and why specific policies have backfired. While each case study is unique, they share a common problem: Policies that were intended to help our most vulnerable students not only failed, but actually made the situation worse.
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