Top 10 School Leadership Books

1) The Results Fieldbook: Practical Strategies from Dramatically Improved Schools, 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.

 

2) Schools of FISH!: Welcome Back to the Reason You Became an Educator, by Philip Strand – The creators of FISH! explain how to adapt the simple but innovative principles of the FISH! philosophy to the special challenges of teaching, combining real-life examples and step-by-step instructions as it explores the applications of such tenets as Be There, Play, Make Their Day, and Choose Your Attitude.

 

3) Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott - If you have ever felt the need to have an important conversation, but you couldn’t bring yourself to having it, then this is the book for you. Susan Scott details the exact methods to bring us to having those conversations that we know will change our life and other people’s life. It is important to overcome this barrier because a conversation is not about the relationship, it is the relationship.

 

4) Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don't Learn, by Richard DuFour - “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.

 

5) School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results, by Robert Marzano – 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-anal
ysis 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.

 

6) What 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.”


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.

 

7) Teacher Leadership that Strengthens Professional Practice, by Charlotte Danielson - Every school relies on teachers who informally and voluntarily lead various efforts in the school. These teachers may not be appointed leaders or paid leaders, but they are committed leaders: they see a need and they respond to it. What do these teacher leaders do that is different from the work of excellent teachers who are not teacher leaders? “If we can articulate those skills,” says Charlotte Danielson, “then we can take steps to enable more teachers to develop those skills and be better equipped to tackle special projects.”

 

Teacher Leadership That Strengthens Professional Practice is designed to be a resource not only for prospective teacher leaders but also for administrators who want to better support the development of outstanding teacher leaders.

 

In short, this book gives individuals and schools a practical framework for tapping teachers' leadership potential and marshaling their efforts to better educate students and create a stronger learning community. As Danielson convincingly shows, genuine teacher leadership is a powerful force for constructive change.

 

8) The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, by Michael Watkins – In these days of the public's microscopic scrutiny of corporate C-level executives, it's a wonder anyone would aspire to the CEO position. Amazingly enough, many eager managers are still climbing–and Harvard Business School professor and author (Right from the Start [1999]) Watkins helps prepare them for career moves, accelerating their transitions. This is, essentially, practical advice about undertaking new opportunities and understanding new vulnerabilities, quickly and without much upheaval.


Different steps–sometimes simultaneously, sometimes sequential– define success in the first three months, from promoting yourself (i.e., taking charge fast) to keeping your balance. Anecdotes enliven the checklists and sample learning plans; in fact, one specific case–Douglas Ivester of Coca-Cola–underscores the absolute necessity to adapt and change rapidly in new positions. Much content is human resources related, based on self-discipline, team building, and the availability of trusted advice and counsel.

 

9) Failure is Not an Option: Six Principles that Guide Student Achievement in High-Performing Schools, by Alan Blankstein - "It puts students first as a moral issue and then examines all the systems and processes that need to be in place to help them. The six principles are excellently articulated, the key literature is identified, and the book is full of strategic and usable implications. This is a practical, well formatted book that is intellectually solid, emotionally inspiring, and practically accessible." (Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education)

 

10) Leading in a Culture of Change, by Michael Fullan - "In Leading in a Culture of Change, Michael Fullan deftly combines his expertise in school reform with the latest insights in organizational change and leadership. The result is a compelling and insightful exposition on how leaders in any setting can bring about lasting, positive, systemic change in their organizations." (John Alexander, president, Center for Creative Leadership)

 

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