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Successful School Restructuring.

From the local schoolhouse to national policy, we hear a common refrain about school improvement initiatives - "Does it improve student achievement and instructional practice?" Every request for proposal, every school improvement plan, and most research proposals ask this same question - "Are teaching and learning improving?" Hooray! This is a back-to-basics movement with which few can argue.

Ah, but the nature of the data that we collect to judge effectiveness - there's the rub. Policymakers need "simplified data" that can be used across broad constituencies, measured, and quantified. Many teachers and principals rail against such standardized data and look for data that reflect the complexity of individual students and the complicated, idiosyncratic institutions that they work in. They want "complex data."

Both needs are real. Having recently left the microworld of a school for the macroworld of the Department of Education, I have been struggling to find language and data that are accessible to, and usable by, both groups. That search led me, happily, back to an old favorite, Newmann and Wehlage's Successful School Restructuring.

This short book offers data complex and simple enough for both ends of the professional continuum, and does so in a thoughtful, readable way. By examining the complexity of schools and learning, and by presenting clear and high standards for its judgments, the book treats educators with respect and gives us a common language to wrestle with big and small issues.

Newmann and Wehlage provide a construct of schools, teaching, and learning on which to build our dreams for the future. The book is a great starting point for conversations between the wide continuum of folks who are committed to improving our schools for all children.

Published by the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, 1025 W. Johnson St., Rm. 242, Madison, WI 53706. Price: $9.95.

- Paul Schwarz is on leave as Principal of Central Park East Secondary School in New York City.

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Author:Schwarz, Paul
Publication:Educational Leadership
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1998
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