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April 1, 1996
Vol. 53
No. 7


A Higher Standard of Leadership

A Higher Standard of Leadership: Lessons from the Life of Ghandi by Keshavan Nair. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1995.
In A Higher Standard of Leadership, Keshavan Nair applies Gandhi's ideals of truth, nonviolence, and a universal code of conduct (treat others as you would like to be treated) to business and political leadership, an awkward task that Nair pulls off surprisingly well.
Nair focuses on Gandhi's example of service as the core of leadership, challenging the western idea of leadership as the attainment of power. Using lessons from Gandhi's life, accentuated by examples of modern corporate practices, the author explains that leadership exists within relationships and that the focus of those relationships should be on mutual responsibilities rather than individual rights.
Gandhi's ideals demand that leaders deliberately consider the moral dimensions of decisions. Nair would have leaders consider both ends and means—applying the values of truth and nonviolence to both. Leadership is a way of life, not a technique, he says. He points to the powerful impact Gandhi had on India to illustrate the long-lasting results possible with this type of leadership.
Nair's arguments occasionally seem simplistic, especially when he compares some of Gandhi's ideas to total quality management techniques. Taken in total, however, Nair has produced a readable work that questions some modern assumptions, a work worth reading.
Published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 155 Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94104-4109. Price: $24.95.
—Reviewed by Terry Beck, Federal Way Public Schools, Federal Way, Washington.

Beating the Odds

Beating the Odds: How the Poor Get to College by Arthur Levine and Jana Nidiffer. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.
In Beating the Odds: How the Poor Get to College, Arthur Levine and Jana Nidiffer make a powerful case for the elegantly simple way that almost every reader can help one youth in poverty get to college: be a mentor. Readers currently exhausted or bored by the burgeoning "mentor" literature should beware—this book will wake you up and pay unexpected dividends in insight. Why?
First, the book is logically organized (Weighing the Odds, Beating the Odds, and Improving the Odds), well-researched, and anecdotal in style. Second, it provides insight educators need into the psychological dynamics—not of the vast majority of disadvantaged individuals who never make it to college, but of the few successful individuals who somehow break through poverty, hardship, and disadvantage to make it to campuses. Finally, the authors provide readers the very thing the poor need: hope. Isolated and desperately poor youth can find access to the American Dream, and informed educators can effectively help them.
A succinct, well-informed background discussion on the relationship between poverty and college attendance opens this volume. At its heart, the text analyzes—with poignant quotations—how 24 college students from poverty backgrounds got to college. From student anecdotes, Levine and Nidiffer began to notice a trend: the "story, put simply, was of an individual who touched or changed the students' lives" (p. 65). Widely diverse individuals mentored, lectured, valued, facilitated, pushed and shoved, and even stood beside these now-grateful and awed college students at the gate of academe.
Who were these mentors? Family members, parents, teachers, coaches, and social workers. They provided promising youth four key ingredients to their success: (1) a sense of palpable hope for the future; (2) confidence that they were capable individuals who could succeed in college; (3) an understanding of the broad impact of education on any individual's future; and (4) help in matching them to colleges where they would and, in fact, did succeed (pp.76-78).
The authors of Beating the Odds investigate the chemistry of hope, of building career aspirations and making them come true, of helping youth in poverty to obtain selective as well as community college entrance. And while the authors focus primarily on the powerful force of individual investment in helping poor youth go to college, they also note how effective programs like Upward Bound and ABC (A Better Chance) play a role in the lives of college-bound youth. It is this evenhanded approach based on a deep commitment to helping youth in poverty succeed that makes the highly readable Beating the Odds an excellent investment in the future.
Published by Jossey-Bass, 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94101-1342. Price: $27.95.
—Reviewed by Vicky Dill, Schreiner College, Kerrville, Texas.

Secondary Schools in Canada

Secondary Schools in Canada: The National Report of the Exempolary Schools Project by Jane Gaskell. Toronto: Canadian Education Association, 1995.
This book reports the results of one of the largest, most complex research studies of Canadian education ever conducted: a two-and-a-half-year study of 21 diverse high schools. The project's primary objective was improve student achievement and retention in secondary schools by identifying promising practices in Canadian schools having a reputation for success.
The schools in this project are "exemplary" in the sense of "serving as illustrations" of how schools as human institutions respond to complex, varied, and often unpredictable challenges. They are admired in their communities and have "something to say about secondary education in Canada in the 1990s." The five issues examined are (1) the meaning and recognition of success; (2) interaction between the school and its context; (3) influence of structures, processes, and cultures of the school in fostering success; (4) characteristics of student life; and (5) services provided to students at risk of dropping out.
The significant contribution of this report is its expansion of the conventional meaning of success in education for students, schools, and society. This report will be of interest to many—teachers, administrators, trustees, parents, and legislators, among others in the community.
Also available is a 30-minute video, in English and French, that features scenes and interviews from a selection of schools studied.
Published by the Canadian Education Association, 252 Bloor St., West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V5. Price: $35.
—Reviewed by Bernard Schwartz, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The Manufactured Crisis

The Manufactured Crisis by David Berliner and Bruce Biddle. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1995.
The Manufactured Crisis sets right the national debate over the status of American schooling. It is a book with an indignant tone. Its mission: to tell the public the successes of education and to condemn the pernicious mischief promulgated by the neoconservatives during the Reagan and Bush administrations about declines in schooling. Although Berliner and Biddle reserve their invective for neoconservative policymakers, they seem to foresee the rise of the present U.S. Congress and its axe-wielding domestic policies.
With blunt candor, they offer a refreshing look at evidence of schooling successes at a time when a cynical public ridicules education. Most teachers and school officials operate a system that succeeds reasonably well, the authors claim, and the reasons some schools fail lie in social inequities, not in the educational establishment.
The late Lawrence Cremin, in Popular Education and Its Discontents (1990), was perhaps the first to point out how scientific evidence in education could be perverted to ideological interests. Similarly, this book challenges the misrepresentation of education by neoconservatives who ignore the available evidence of schooling successes for their own capricious self-interests. Berliner and Biddle have done their homework. No longer will education as easily become the scapegoat of national policymakers.
Beginning with A Nation At Risk in 1983, which rhetorically condemned the schools to mediocrity without citing any evidence, Berliner and Biddle belittle political attempts to propagandize and belittle America's public school systems without documenting negative claims. By countering the rhetoric with sound evidence, persuasion, and some invective, they set to rest the onslaught of negative claims.
The authors begin by reviewing a variety of test scores and how frequently they are misused and misinterpreted. Standardized test misuse, however, cannot be laid at the doorstep of the press, and their misinterpretation is as much the fault of researchers as reporters. When all the national and international achievement test data are recalculated, the conclusion is that schools are performing far better than reports have indicated, and that achievement success is more widespread and consistent than any critics have claimed. SAT scores of those entering teaching have in fact climbed dramatically since 1981.
Berliner and Biddle challenge the nostrum that education exists only for job opportunities and the rewards of higher salaries. They demythologize the claim, begun with the 1966 Coleman report, that family and socioeconomic background largely determine school achievement. School characteristics, and teachers primarily, do have a major impact on student performance.
Their remedies for reform are the most sensible since Lloyd Trump's instructional suggestions and John Goodlad's curriculum advice. Drawing on comprehensive evidence about poverty and its relation to education in the United States, Berliner and Biddle argue for realistic appraisals of policies, and for compassion on behalf of children and youth from all communities.
The authors also raise the level of rhetoric against a presumably colluding media. They talk of "hysterical fraud" perpetrated on the public because of press failure to report the good news and find the evidence behind the headlines.
But most reporters are not scholars, and their deadline mentality is not conducive to systematic examination of issues. The medical profession would similarly criticize indifferent reporting on its scientific conclusions. The authors speak as if there were a pernicious conspiracy in the media, when in fact there is only benign and superficial reporting (with the exception of political education posturing) because of the tediousness of education reports from the research community itself.
The authors speak about the press and the media interchangeably without differentiating between syndicated columnists, wire services, and regional and local newspapers (which in fact cover local school district, small town, and state education issues quite convincingly). Even if they are speaking only about the national press, they again fail to distinguish between print and electronic media. If one considers National Public Radio, for example, then the coverage of newsworthy educational topics is exceptionally comprehensive.
While it is important to challenge the doomsday soothsayers in the press, the remedy for journalistic education bashing is not to bash the press in kind, but for educators to inform the public.
Missing from the book is some deserved condemnation for the educational research community itself, which, in the zeal to gain broad access and media coverage through questionable hypotheses, imprecise instruments, and indifferent analyses, has contributed substantially to the confusion among the public about schooling standards.
The Manufactured Crisis correctly proclaims the considerable achievements of American schooling with a balanced perspective and perspicacious analysis. In this, it can stand alone; it does not need to do what the press itself is so fond of doing: to create an adversary to sell its case.
Published by Addison-Wesley, 1 Jacob Way, Reading, MA 01867. Price: $25.
—Reviewed by Donald K. Sharpes, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah.

Full-Service Schools

Full-Service Schools by Joy G. Dryfoos. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994.
Joy Dryfoos has spent a decade researching and observing the development of full-service schools. She offers the reader a vision of a new kind of institution, one that combines a quality educational program with the support services that children, youth, and families need in order to succeed. Full-service schools are often referred to as school-based clinics, youth service centers, family resource centers, or community schools. All of these emerging models rely on various community agencies: physical health, mental health, social services, recreation, police, and employment. The involvement of these agencies provides a one-stop shopping service in the schools aimed at meeting the educational and social service needs of the community.
In addition to featuring 12 states that support school-based services, Dryfoos has compiled hundreds of sources that provide a framework for implementation and individual innovation. As this new type of public school continues to take its place in American education, Joy Dryfoos offers many practical considerations for educators, practitioners, legislators, parents, private citizens, and the media.
In the preface Full-Service Schools, Dryfoos stated her purpose as to "stimulate committed people to move ahead to create new solutions to old problems, new institutions, new approaches to youth work, and new hope for the future." She accomplished her mission.
Published by Jossey-Bass, 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94104. Price: $25.
—Reviewed by George E. Pawlas, University of Central Florida, Cocoa, Florida.

Leadership for the Schoolhouse

Leadership for the Schoolhouse by Thomas J. Sergiovanni. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996.
Are you running your school according to the principles of Total Quality Management or some other corporate strategy? Do you call students clients and parents stakeholders?
In the final text of a three-part series (Moral Leadership, 1992, and Building Community in Schools, 1994), Thomas Sergiovanni cautions school leaders that importing management tactics from business and industry is a surefire way to lose the school reform battle. Sergiovanni—a professor of education at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas—recommends instead that school leaders think of their schools as communities where the human heart is as important as the human mind.
To get to the core of reform, school leaders need to create theories that "fit the context of schools." To do so, Sergiovanni offers a number of ideas—for example, create schools that are aesthetically pleasing in both images and language. (School documents laced with terms such as client satisfaction and systems management, he explains, don't communicate any real meaning and give off a cold message.)
Another of the author's ideas is to rearrange the sequence of our typical approach to solving problems. He suggests moving from an ends-ways-means approach to a means-ways-ends strategy. In this way, says Sergiovanni, schools can make choices while designing new goals and practices instead of following a lockstep plan.
When it comes to curriculum and instruction, Sergiovanni contends that schools and classrooms should be centers of inquiry, where teachers and students learn together and construct their own understandings. Further, they should emphasize moral connections and—for every person in the school—stress taking responsibility for one's actions and doing "the right thing."
Published by Jossey-Bass Publishers, 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94104-1304. Price: $28.95.
—Reviewed by Susan Black, Educational Research Consultant, Hammondsport, New York.

Making Sense as a School Leader

Making Sense as a School Leader: Persisting Questions, Creative Opportunities by Richard Ackerman, Gordon Donaldson, Jr., and Rebecca Van Der Bogert. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.
In this book, three former principals enter into an exciting conversation about their professional experiences. The reader is invited to participate in both the discussion and questioning that takes place in seeking solutions to school leadership concerns. Although principals play many roles—problem solvers, decision makers, vision seekers, relationship builders—these authors see leadership as a process. In their view, the principal is always learning and, therefore, can model for the staff the ideal way to solve problems.
The authors have identified seven concerns, what they call quests—justice, teaching, purpose, resource, change, ownership, autonomy—as central to a principal's success. Each chapter presents a real situation centered around an identified quest. Also included in each chapter are letters, one from each author, outlining defensible solutions. The reader can select the one best suited to his or her needs and management style. Then, by raising more questions for the reader to think about before selecting the best solution, the authors show that there are no easy answers.
Published by Jossey-Bass, 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94104. Price: $28.95.
—Reviewed by Elizabeth Manera, Arizona State University, Tempe.

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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