The premise of the book is that schools can meet students' academic needs while also facilitating the development of students as valuable citizens in a democratic society. These lofty goals are accomplished through the actions of all the school's stakeholders, who, the authors say, should participate in the development of a covenant--a statement about the shared beliefs for a school's purpose. Implementation of the covenant is a collaborative, decision-making process called shared governance. Another key element is action research, an information-producing process that provides stakeholders with feedback and guidance.
A Guide to Renewing Your School is not a prescription for practice, but rather a systematic format that is applicable to every school. The book contains numerous illustrations and self-monitoring guides to facilitate the assessment of a school's implementation efforts.
Based on the continuing experience of the League of Professional Schools, this book effectively blends theory and practice into an understandable and viable program. This democratic reform process not only can be used to renew curriculum and instruction, but also is appropriate in dealing with non-instructional issues such as school violence and social climate. Whether the focus is curriculum, instruction, or school safety, the process in A Guide to Renewing Your School greatly increases the chance for effective school reform. Reviewed by Raymond A. Horn, Jr., Assistant Professor of Secondary Education and Educational Leadership, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX
AGAINST THE ODDS--HOW "AT RISK" STUDENTS EXCEED EXPECTATIONS. Janine Bempechat. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998. 169 pp. $32.95 hardcover. For the past 30 years, I have been involved with at-risk children and their families in public schools as an elementary teacher, curriculum writer, and principal. Against the Odds held my attention from the opening pages to the concluding chapter.
Bempechat, an Assistant Professor at the Harvard School of Education, devotes her efforts to understanding low-income and minority children who are successful in school. She and her colleagues surveyed, from 1990 to 1995, more than one thousand 5th- and 6th-grade African American, Latino, Indo-Chinese, and Caucasian children in low-income neighborhoods in and around the Boston area, from both public and private schools. They sought to understand ethnic similarities and differences in children's beliefs about the causes of success and failure and children's perceptions of their parents' child-rearing practices. They then examined the relationship of these factors to mathematics achievement.
Chapter 1 examines the problem of underachievement and parents' influence on their children's attitudes about school and learning. The next chapter focuses on children's motivation, and compares high achievers from Catholic schools. In Chapter 3, "The Critical Role of Parents," the author explains how parents can reinforce their children's positive views of school. The next chapter emphasizes children's understanding of their success and failure, teacher behavior, and the structure of classroom learning.
Chapter 5 begins with the state of children's achievement in mathematics, noting how the quality of teaching and textbooks influences achievement. Data needed to resolve concerns follows. Bempechat emphasizes that education must be the family's top priority, high expectations and standards must be maintained, and a healthy self-perception of ability must be encouraged. The study concludes with observations and challenges.
The author might have extended the term "at risk," because its use was confusing in some instances. Furthermore, the ways in which levels of poverty affect children's school achievement could be a consideration for additional research.
Against the Odds would be a valuable resource to all readers interested in learning how families can promote children's achievement in school. Reviewed by Rita Newman, Consultant, Dallas, TX
CHILDHOOD'S SECRETS: Intimacy, Privacy and the Self Reconsidered. Max van Manen & Bas Levering. New York: Teachers College Press, 1996. 181 pp. $19.95. Childhood's Secrets is a fascinating read. Composed of 14 short chapters, the book tells readers all they want to know about the importance of secrecy (or privacy) to the development of an inner self. Although many people would enjoy this book, those of us who have young children, or who have worked with young children, should find it of particular interest.
The authors use adults' reflections on childhood experiences with secrecy to flesh out their theories about various dimensions of secrecy. Van Manen and Levering maintain that observation of children shows their need for a secret hiding place, a "space of shelter and safety, where one can withdraw from the outside world" (p. 23). Reflective of Ralph Waldo Emerson's focus on inner contemplation, the authors argue that the secret place can be "... an asylum in which the child can withdraw to experiment with a growing sense of self-awareness affecting growth of the inner, spiritual life" (p. 25).
This theme, the need for secrecy, is introduced in the first two chapters and revisited in many ways throughout the remainder of the book. The authors emphasize that "privacy contributes to the kind of inner growth that is associated with independence, personal power, and positive autonomy" (p. 74). This point is considered the crux of the matter for early childhood educators.
Although the stories are fascinating, educators not completely taken with the notion of secrecy will probably find the book to be a bit too much. Another concern is the need for more cross-cultural and gendered looks at secrecy; flat statements such as "secrecy is -- [whatever]" leave out differing world views.
The most useful aspect of the book is the reminder about the full and often covert lives that young children lead. In spite of, or perhaps even because of, our careful adult surveillance, children will find places, either external or internal, where they can be alone. Neil Postman has argued that without secrets there can be no childhood; here, the authors suggest that by reading this book, "adults may become more thoughtfully aware of the significance of child secrecy in their ... relations with children" (p. 141).
The concluding chapter, the "Pedagogy of Secrecy," offers a rather bleak post-modernist vision of children in educational institutions (schools and child care centers) in which there is "tension between secrecy and privacy on the one hand, and supervision and control on the other" (p. 150). The danger, as the authors (and I) see it, is that increased supervision of children tends to homogenize learning, creating an atmosphere where sameness, rather than uniqueness, is valued. The book ends by asking, "How can we give the experience of secrecy the opportunity to bring meaningfulness to the relationships and lives of our children?" (p. 170). Reading Childhood's Secrets is a good place to start. Reviewed by Leigh M. O'Brien, Associate Professor, Education, Nazareth College, Rochester, NY
A GARDEN OF POETS: Poetry Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Mary Kenner Glover. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1999. 134pp. $9.95. Glover has created an engaging, informative view of poetry writing in the elementary classroom. The author is the co-founder, principal and 2nd-grade teacher of an alternative school in Arizona where a significant part of the students' learning takes place in a garden. Glover draws a parallel between these learning experiences and the children's growth as poets.
This book details the author's growth as a poet, the mentors who influenced her--Donald Murray, Georgia Heard, and Ralph Fletcher--and the steps she takes to cultivate poesy in her students. Donald Graves's philosophies about the writing process are clearly in evidence. Using Graves's suggestions, Glover serves as a writing model for her students, sharing drafts and revisions of her poems. She also surrounds the children with the poetry of published authors and provides a bibliography of her students' favorites. In addition, Glover lists the musical selections she plays while her students write.
Glover's text resonates with her fervid belief that children are remarkable in their ability to write from their hearts. Such ability develops when teachers provide students with time, encouragement, the support of fellow writers, and opportunities to publish and celebrate their writing. Glover demonstrates how to teach developmentally appropriate lessons that will lead to children's understanding of the craft of writing. The author describes how she teaches students to utilize poetic elements such as line breaks, various styles, authentic voices, simile, and metaphor.
This text will appeal most to teachers who are familiar with the writing process, love poetry, and have the desire to avoid the restrictions of counted-syllable poetry. Glover's book and the samples of children's poetry it contains will inspire teachers to plant and tend the seeds of poetry in their own classrooms.
Reviewed by Anne Drolett Creany, Associate Professor, Education Department, Clarion University, Clarion, PA
INTERVENTIONS FOR ADHD: Treatment in Developmental Context. Phyllis Anne Teeter. New York: Guilford, 1998. 378pp. $40.00. Teeter has written a comprehensive book on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). She draws on her clinical experiences with individuals of all ages with ADHD and their families.
Besides covering the usual characteristics, etiology, theoretical models, assessment, treatment, and future research trends, Teeter uses developmental stages in the life span to organize the information. The developmental challenges of ADHD, as well as intervention and techniques, are considered for each of these stages: toddler/preschool, middle childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Twenty tables in the book give readers critical information at a glance, and an index of these tables is helpful for quick reference.
This text is well-documented, with 43 pages of references cited as sources. Not only is this book appropriate for educators and mental health professionals, it also would be a valuable resource for parents, as it presents very current, well-researched information in a very readable style. Reviewed by Mary Drecktrah, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
REFORMING READING, WRITING, AND MATHEMATICS: Teachers' Responses and the Prospects for Systemic Reform. S.G. Grant. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1998. 237 pp. $24.50. What are the important issues relating to systemic reform? And how do teachers respond to reform in their own classrooms? Grant's premise is that if the intended audience--policymakers, administrators, researchers, scholars, and staff developers--examines how teachers make sense of multiple reforms, educators will better understand the dimensions of the systemic argument.
Policymakers and administrators will appreciate chapters 1, 2, and 8, which explicitly define systemic reform, assuming the role of changing curriculum frameworks, the coordination of state and local policies, and the restructuring of school governance. New frameworks outline high expectations of what students will know and do. The author gives examples of how state and local policies should be coordinated with curriculum, materials, assessment, and, most important, professional development and licensure requirements, with a site-based management plan integrated in every school.
The highlights of this book are the case studies of four teachers in four different classroom environments presented in chapters 3 through 7. These teachers responded to school reform in ways that at first seemed varied, but in which similarities also emerged.
For example, Bonnie Jones, a 4th-grade teacher, embraced reforms by seeking opportunities to learn more about how to approach reading. She became interested in reading reform efforts and allowed her students to make meaning from trade books. Jones confessed, however, that she continued to use conventional worksheets as well. Frank Jensen, a 3rd/4th-grade teacher, responded modestly to reform. He contends that his reading, writing, and math programs always have reflected new ideas; however, he continues to present skill-based instruction.
What do variations in teachers' responses imply about the prospects for systemic reform? After reading the case studies, readers can surmise that reforms do not, and should not, prescribe all that teachers should know or do, nor how they should change practices. Readers will quickly realize that curriculum reforms need to consider teachers' sense of reform, instructional practices, and need for extensive subject matter knowledge.
Systemic reform that is interconnected with classroom teaching is an ambitious agenda. However, the author presents an important element to contemplate--teachers relate differently to initiatives for reforms for different subject areas. For effective results, systemic reformers should consider the role of the teachers' interpretation in response to reform. Reviewed by Barbara Cozza, Assistant Professor of Education, University of Scranton, Scranton, PA
WHO'S INVITED TO SHARE? Using Literacy To Teach for Equity and Social Justice. Roxanne Henkin. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998. 170 pp. $22 paper. All classrooms have diversity, and the issue of "outsiders" in the public elementary classroom, the author says, affects every school and every community. Outsiders come from all racial, cultural, and economic groups, and sometimes even from within the dominant group. While being an outsider is not necessarily negative, the question remains: Do these students want to be left alone, or are they being excluded against their wishes? Teachers must focus on children who are, but do not want to be, excluded.
To address this problem, Henkin has developed the Inclusive Inquiry Cycle, which uses literacy to teach social justice. This process uncovers prejudice and discrimination, and culminates in the students' opening up their perceptions of groups other than their own. Briefly, the key components of the literacy process are talk, reflection, and inquiry, which are accomplished through reading and writing workshops.
A major feature of the Inclusive Inquiry Cycle is the chance for students to acquire and examine new understandings through multiple literacies (i.e., learning from sources other than printed materials). Students can express themselves through visual or performing arts, as well as through other avenues as diverse as their own interests and talents. The Cycle brings cross-cultural and multicultural education into the literacy curriculum. The action part of social justice is emphasized by incorporating a critical perspective.
Of the six supporting appendices, the most significant are titled: "Who Is Invited To Share in My Classroom?" and "How Well Do I Know Students' Home Lives?" Both sections require teachers' intense self-evaluation.
Henkin spent several years in the Cicero School District in northern Illinois working with faculty and students to promote social justice. Although the book is relatively short, its message is significant: Students must experience democracy in school if they are to grow up and create a more democratic society after they leave school. Mildred R. Donoghue, Professor of Education and Reading, California State University, Fullerton
LEADERSHIP FOR EDUCATIONAL RENEWAL: Developing a Cadre of Leaders. Wilma Smith & Gary Fenstermacher, Editors. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1,999. 349pp. $29.95. From the genesis of the Agenda for Education in a Democracy, the Institute for Educational Renewal (IEI) and the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) were initiated. Using the 19 postulates for educational renewal developed by John I. Goodlad, the IEI and the NNER created a training program to simultaneously renew schooling and educate the educators.
This program brings together higher education faculty and administrators with educators from public school systems. Their mission is to facilitate the critical enculturation of young children into a social and political democracy, to provide all children disciplined encounters with all the subject matters of the human conversation, to engage in pedagogical practices that forge a caring and effective connection between teacher and student, and to exercise responsible stewardship of schools.
This book almost reads as an open invitation to participate in the IEI. While at times the reading seems somewhat disconnected, the purpose is clear and important. The early chapters detail the program's history and mission. The discussion then moves into a description of the curriculum and pedagogy of the training sessions. A major portion of the book covers case studies of various partnerships throughout the country. The book concludes with a narrative reflection of lessons learned from the first cohorts.
While this book is not a standard read for the development of leadership, it is worth the investment. This reviewer will be sharing it with his college dean. Reviewed by Perry Rettig, Assistant Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS IN SCHOOL: Culturally Responsive Teaching. Etta R. Hollins & Eileen I. Oliver, Editors. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1999. 211 pp. $24.50 paper. Proposing that teachers should consider learners' cultures when planning educational experiences, this 12-chapter book examines topics such as becoming a reflective practitioner, science instruction for inner-city African American children, strategic learning environments, and cultural diversity and the literature curriculum. Readers will find overviews, focus questions, and suggested learning experiences.
The editors designed the book for preservice and inservice teacher education students in instructional methodology, multicultural education, and multicultural foundations courses. Without a doubt, the book succeeds in bringing an awareness that educational experiences should reflect learners' cultural backgrounds. Particularly commendable aspects of the book include the section on "Teaching Indian Students" (p. 95), the chapter on cultural diversity and the literature curriculum, and the chapter on recognizing and valuing differences.
The book focuses primarily on culturally responsive teaching for African American students. While the editors include one chapter on American Indian students, Latino Americans receive scant recognition, Asian Americans even less. This is somewhat surprising, considering the tremendous population increases of Asians and Latino Americans during the last decade and the projections that Latino Americans soon will be the largest minority group in the United States. While the emphasis on African Americans is undoubtedly needed, a book that claims to provide "important insights into the need for transforming school practices for a culturally diverse society" (p. xv) could have made a more significant contribution by offering more in-depth treatment of Asians and Latinos, and even of the diverse European American cultures.
Teacher education students preparing to teach in schools that are predominantly African American or American Indian will find the book useful. Teacher educators will likely find the book most useful for an instructional methodology course, or for a course where preservice and inservice teachers strive to understand the effects of culture on learning. Reviewed by M. Lee Manning, Professor, Department of Educational Curriculum and Instruction, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
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|Author:||McCracken, Janet B.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1999|
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