In this book, Robert Marzano, the most effective force in educational reform today, continues his efforts to promote excellence in schools. Here, he and his colleagues turn their attention to defining school leadership behaviors and actions that raise student achievement. They blend practical advice and research to come up with specific steps that school leaders can take to see that students improve academically.
Marzano et al found that there are 21 leadership responsibilities that have a statistically significant relationship with student achievement. All are important, but the three most correlated with achievement are (1) Situational Awareness (of the specific school situation and good use of this information), (2) Flexibility (to adapt to the specific situation and to handle dissent), and (3) (tied) Discipline (to protect teachers from undue distractions), Outreach (as advocate and spokesperson for the school), and Monitoring/Evaluation (creating a system that provides feedback on effectiveness).
They classified previous efforts at school change into two types. First-Order Change is incremental, a step-by-step pattern. Second-Order Change is sudden reversal of pattern or direction, anything but incremental. Both change processes can be effective, and both require different behaviors by school leaders. The three most effective behaviors for First-Order Change are (1) Monitoring/Evaluating, (2) Culture (building a positive culture that influences teachers), and (3) Ideals/Beliefs (leader's well-articulated ideals and beliefs). The three most important behaviors for Second-Order Change are (1) Knowledge of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, (2) Optimizer (optimism as a critical characteristic), and (3) Intellectual Stimulation (of Staff).
The third component Marzano et al looked at was the importance of the leader's ability to select the right work or issues for the school staff to tackle to improve achievement, whether through the use of models of site-specific or of comprehensive school reform. Both models are effective if tailored to the needs and context of a given school.
But hold on. Don't be discouraged from reading this book because you fear that this is just another text full of education theory and cliches. Or don't succumb to thoughts of "been there, done that" and been burned too many times before. Marzano and company offer a thorough, five-step plan that works for experienced or novice leaders. They recognize that no one person can do all they suggest, and they show how to share leadership with other educators and community members. This book is the most clearly defined, research-based plan for improving student achievement you can find today; and everyone, educator or not, who is interested in better student academic growth should read it.
If there were educational awards equivalent to the Congressional Medal of Honor given for service beyond the call of duty for the promotion of student academic excellence, Robert Marzano should receive the first.