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BOOK BLOG: Reviews of top education leadership books Print E-mail

sara-johnson-2006.jpgby Dr. Sara Johnson, Principal, McMinnville School District

Professional books – we love them and we need them!  They hold the secrets; in them you will find the silver bullet and the missing link.  But it takes so much time to read all of the books coming out by our favorite authors.  Which one’s are worth your time?  Which books should you buy and which should you borrow?  How can I get the most out of a book?

COSA is here to help you once again!  This Book Blog will give you a place to see the top-selling books and also provide you a brief review of several books written by a principal actively working in the field.  Also, the blog will allow you to give your input on the books to help your peers decide which books to read!

This BN Logo takes you to the Barnes and Noble Website, where you may receive a 20 percent educator’s discount.  As well, COSA receives a small percentage of each sale generated from a link in this blog. 

        June's Top-Selling
Educational Leadership Books

  1. The Results Fieldbook: Practical Strategies from Dramatically Improved Schools, by Mike Schmoker
  2. Good to Great and the Social Sectors, by Jim Collins
  3. Schools of Fish!: Welcome Back to the Reason You Became an Educator, by Philip Strand
  4. Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott
  5. Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don't Learn, by Richard DuFour
  6. School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results, by Robert Marzano
  7. What Great Principals Do Differently: Fifteen Things That Matter Most, by Todd Whitaker
  8. Teacher Leadership that Strengthens Professional Practice, by Charlotte Danielson
  9. The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, by Michael Watkins
  10. Failure is Not an Option: Six Principles that Guide Student Achievement in High-Performing Schools, by Alan Blankstein

Here are brief reviews of four of these books:

bookimagetoddwhitaker.jpgWhat Great Principals Do Differently, Fifteen Things That Matter Most, by Todd Whitaker
Great principals clearly do things differently than other principals.  Through years of research and practice, Todd Whitaker has identified fifteen things that stand out and has compiled them in a book so those who are not yet great can practice and become a great principal!  On page 5, he states his purpose, “The purpose of this book is to identify some of the specific practices that set apart the outstanding principals.”

Here are the things great principals do differently (drum roll):

  • Hire and support great people.
  • Accept the fact that the principal is the variable between average and great.
  • Treat all people with respect all the time.
  • Remember that the principal is the number one climate setter.
  • Teach teachers to do their best.
  • Hire only great people.
  • Keep standardized testing in perspective.
  • First, understand behaviors – then work on beliefs.
  • Be loyal to the students.
  • Every decision should be based on the best teachers.
  • Realize who is comfortable and who is uncomfortable in your school.
  • Back up the high achievers; learn to understand them.
  • Hold a strong core of beliefs and live those every day.
  • Stay proactive in keeping things on track.

Whittaker provides the reader with “how to” tips and a few stories.  Although the book is a bit simplistic and narrow when viewed by the acting principal, it is a quick easy read and brings important details to the forefront.  This is a great book to read at the beginning of August because it will remind you of all the important things you will need to think about as the school year begins. 

bookimageschoolleadership.jpgSchool Leadership that Works, by Robert Marzano, Timothy Waters, and Brian McNulty

All principals have limited time, so Marzano, Waters, and McNulty researched school leadership theories and practices across 35 years, and delivered a book that summarizes the findings into a useful tool for leaders to utilize in determining which practices make the most impact on a school.  The research method used by the authors is called Meta-Analysis, which allows the researcher to take all of the available literature and run it through a statistical analysis to determine the practices delivering the highest degree of impact throughout all of the studies. 

The comprehensive list compiled by Marzano, Waters, and McNulty identifies 21 responsibilities and their correlations with student achievement (table on page 42 of the book).  The authors carefully define each correlate and then make recommendations. This book is research based and includes practical applications.  A reader can skip around throughout the book and read portions, finding details on specific practices.  This is a good book for the principal’s professional library.

Marzano has continued to utilize meta-analysis to research and write other books, many becoming top-sellers.  This book was one of his first top-sellers and is perhaps the most meaningful for understanding the “big picture” of effective leadership.  This book has remained on the top-selling list for over two years.

bookimagewhateverittakes.jpgWhatever it Takes:  How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don’t Learn, by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, & Gayle Karhanek

“Professional Learning Communities” have become essential to school improvement.  DuFour, & Eaker identified collaboration of professionals in schools as “the most promising strategy for sustainable school improvement.” “Professional learning communities” as a practice is founded on the evolving knowledge base determined by continuous research and practice.  It is the utilization of what the business world calls “collective intelligence.”  The authors merge theory and practice in this book, their second book on Professional Learning Communities, providing case studies and examples of schools that have been successful in boosting achievement.  This book follows Profession Learning Communities at Work:  Best Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement, by Richard DuFour, & Robert Eaker published in 1998 by ASCD.  It is helpful to read this foundational book first, because the essential components of establishing a professional learning community are defined in the first book.  The second book is a problem solving manual for those who have begun to use collaboration in schools as a tool for school improvement.

This is a book in which I skimmed some parts and thoroughly read others.  I found parts of the book useful in my work, and others irrelevant.  It offers information for all levels of principals, elementary, middle and high.

bookimageresultsfieldbook.jpgThe Results Fieldbook, by Mike Schmoker

This is the partner book to Schmoker’s book, RESULTS: The Key to Continuous School Improvement.  Schmoker explains the process of school improvement clearly and utilizes a question and answer format.  He answers the questions:  What is the single most important event of the school year that will impact school improvement?  How do you measure school improvement?  This book provides tools to apply in your school.  If you have the book, RESULTS, you might want this handbook.  It is not a must, but is useful.

Sara Johnson is a former Oregon Principal of the Year.  Share your comments, questions and recommendations with Sara and other Book Blog readers in the Comment Form below.


Comments (4)Add Comment
Book recommendation
written by John M. Daggett Ph.D., June 25, 2008
Please consider LEADERSHIP for RESILIENT SCHOOLS and COMMUNITIES by Mike M. Milstein and Dorris Annie Henry 2008 for your reading list.

This is a practical and user-friendly guide, focusing energy on the prevention of factors that interfere with students from learning and teachers from teaching. It is based on decades of research. This is a great guide for Principals and Supeintendents in building healthy school and community cultures.
Next list of best sellers
written by Sara Johnson, July 01, 2008
We will add LEADERSHIP for RESILIENT SCHOOLS and COMMUNITIES by Mike M. Milstein and Dorris Annie Henry to the book review list for July. Thanks for recommending a useful book. Our friends at Barnes and Noble added it to the next "top seller" reading list which I received today and will be posting soon. There are some great new books coming up.
Reading List Additions
written by Sara Johnson, August 14, 2008
Thanks to Sue Roessler, we have additions to our summer reading list. These came from the COSA Superintendent's Leadership Seminars. Happy reading!


August 22, 2007

Covey, Stephen M.R. The Speed of Trust

Stone, Patton and Heen. Difficult Conversations

Gladwell, Malcolm. blink (The Power of Thinking Without Thinking)

Howe and Strauss. Millennials Rising

September 28, 2007

Nair, Keshavan. A Higher Standard of Leadership: Lesson from the Life of Gandhi

Wagner, Tony. Change Leadership: A Practical Guide to Transforming Our Schools

Goleman, Daniel, Annie McKee, and Richard E Boyatzis. Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence

Wheatley, Margaret. Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time

December 6, 2007

Michelli, Joseph A. The Starbucks Experience

Lencioni, Patrick. DEATH by Meeting

April 25, 2008

Kozol, Jonathan. Amazing Grace

Heifetz, Ronald A. and Linsky, Marty. Leadership On The Line
Another Great book
written by Tammy Rasmussen, August 14, 2008
I am currently reading Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High. For me it is imperative that I have heart in the conversations that I am engaged in. I wanted a book that helped me learn how to stay focused but also to feel comfortable taking risks. Our students depend on us to engage in the tough conversations and for us to be results oriented.

I am using a tool called Shelfari.....(www.shelfari.com) and it is how I am organizing the books that I am reading, have read, and plan to read. You can visit my shelfari here.

[url= http://www.shelfari.com/o15183...1518321682

I have started a group there called Instructional Leadership and would love to learn with you.

Tammy Rasmussen

Southern Oregon RTI Program Coordinator

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This page was last updated on Thursday, July 31, 2008 .