What's Informing Our Thinking

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Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago
By Anthony S. Bryk, Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Stuart Luppescu, John Q., published by University of Chicago Press, 2010

The book we recommend this month, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, has been “informing our thinking” since it was first published in 2010. Led by Anthony S. Bryk, the president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, past and current researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research provide a detailed analysis of why students in 100 public elementary schools in Chicago were able to improve substantially in reading and math over a 7-year period and students in another 100 schools were not.

Using massive longitudinal evidence, the study shows a comprehensive set of school practices and school and community conditions that promote improvement, noting that the absence of any of these may jeopardize progress. These five essential supports are: school leadership, professional capacity, parent-community engagement, student-centered learning climate and coherent curriculum.

There are several reasons why this book is still relevant to the education field in general and to the community school field in particular, but perhaps number one is because it proves that coherent, integrated collaboration, the backbone of community schools, is the key to effective schools.