A School Leader's Guide to Closing Achievement Gaps
- Carolyn J. Kelley - University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Chile, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
- James J. Shaw
"With the spotlight on schools and the achievement of subgroups of students, educators need to read this book and reflect on the guiding questions. Then we need to take the challenge and do what we know is right so we are doubling student performance and closing achievement gaps."
—Leslie Standerfer, Principal
Estrella Foothills High School, Goodyear, AZ
"This text is the product of considerable research and disciplined reflection on closing the student achievement gap in schools, unquestionably the most important challenge facing schools. The book offers a wealth of well-illustrated advice about how to address this challenge and should be required reading for every principal and superintendent."
—Kenneth Leithwood, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
The keys to closing achievement gaps from principals who have been there!
What does it take to reach across cultural and socioeconomic barriers to bridge student achievement gaps? Drawing on five years of nationwide research, the authors present Learning First, an integrated schoolwide framework of collaborative leadership that helps school leaders advance learning for all students. Using case examples that illustrate how Learning First works in action and providing worksheets, checklists, and rubrics to support implementation, the book shows principals how to apply this field-tested model to four critical dimensions of leadership:
- Advancing equity and excellence in student learning
- Developing teachers' instructional capacity
- Managing and aligning resources
- Building and engaging community
Learning First! offers an approach that strengthens principals' leadership skills, delineates shared goals for professional communities, and helps educators keep their eyes on the prize—closing the achievement gap in their schools.
“This text is the product of considerable research and disciplined reflection on closing the student achievement gap in schools, unquestionably the most important challenge facing schools at this time. It offers a wealth of well-illustrated advice, especially to those in school and district leadership roles, about how to go about addressing this challenge in their organizations. It should be required reading for every principal and superintendent.”
Our school’s national testing results need to improve, and as the principal I have been generating strategies, with my staff, to turn those results around. We have developed lots of good, solid strategies, but the bit that was missing is how we hold this new plan together. Then I found Kelley and Shaw’s Learning First, and it pushed me back into the big picture stuff, where I should have been all this time.
The book is based on contemporary leadership research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The opening sentence struck an immediate chord: “Diversity is the greatest strength of public schools, and their greatest challenge”. (p. xi) That’s where we are at. Other points of engagement were: the moral imperative for Learning First, addressing the achievement gaps, and the resource gaps, which are often overlooked.
The conceptual framework of Learning First in visual form looks like many other concentric-circle models. The elements are what makes it different: socio-cognitive leadership, the dimensions of leadership for learning, and levers of change (shown in Figure 2.1). This framework is repeated throughout the book, showing how the parts are integrated.
This book, beside generating strategies that can be transferred across education systems, is focused and practical. This is higher-level leadership coaching that is very applicable in a variety of school situations.
Because the book is fulfilling an immediate need for my school community, I would give it 6 stars (out of five), if I could.
"The Learning First framework provides a much-needed bridge between the current research in leadership and instruction and the day-to-day practice of leading a school."
“In a time when the spotlight is on schools and the achievement of subgroups of students, educators need to read this book and reflect on the guiding questions. Then we need to take the challenge and do what we know is right so we are doubling student performance and closing achievement gaps.”