Summer is here! Well, sort of.
While most administrators don't have the summer months off, the three months without students in the building will probably still feel like a break. With a bit more downtime and way less stress, some may take the time to catch up on some hobbies and read a few books. So are there any education books you should check out? Well, so glad you asked! Let's take a look.
This past winter, the New York Times made a list of the Top 75 New York Times Best-Selling Education Books of 2013. Since school was still in session, you're excused if you may have missed it. While the topic "education" is pretty broad and includes basically anything that makes you stop and re-evaluate how you look at the world, we've boiled it down to the top five books on the list focused on the K-12 space.
1. How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
NYT Rank: 4
Paul Tough, a writer for the New Yorker and New York Times, pushes readers to reanalyze what goes into making a successful person. While test scores, academics, and intelligence have been at the forefront of success since the Reagan era, Tough argues that character development and non-cognitive skills are far more important. If this mentality sounds familiar, think back to the recent hullabaloo around "character-based education." The KIPP charter network, at the center of the debate, is profiled in Tough's book as a school attempting to educate successful kids the right way: through character traits. For both Tough and KIPP, instilling traits like grit, optimism, curiosity, perseverance, and self-control in children is key when trying to develop successful people. Don't have time to read the whole book? Check out Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss's fascinating interview with the author.
2. Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman
NYT Rank: 7
Written by staff at The Reading and Writing Project, Pathways to the Common Core attempts to bridge the gap between mandates and actual implementation of the new standards. This is a book designed for teachers, administrators, and professional learning communities — essentially everybody who is now being asked to use the Common Core State Standards but perhaps hasn't been fully prepped on how to do so. According to the book's publisher, Heinmann (a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), the book benefits school stakeholders in four ways by helping them "understand what the standards say, suggest, and what they don’t say; recognize the guiding principles that underpin the reading and writing standards; identify how the Common Core’s infrastructure supports a spiraling K-12 literacy curriculum; and scrutinize the context in which the CCSS were written and are being unrolled."
While the writers may not be pleased with how quickly the Common Core has been pushed out, they recognize it's here and helping educators' ability to help students navigate the standards is dependent on finding ways to make them work. This would be a great read for an administrator trying to wrap their head around the Common Core and get tangible advice to pass along to their teachers in the new school year.
3. Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch
NYT Rank: 11
New York University education historian Diane Ravitch is fascinating, as she has stood on all sides of the education debate. She was the former U.S. assistant secretary of education during the George H. W. Bush administration and was appointed by the Clinton administration to the National Assessment Governing Board. In other words, she played a large role in creating the current testing culture at the center of debate today.
What's remarkable about Ravitch, however, is her willingness to admit shifts in thinking, and that's just what she does in "Reign of Error." The follow up to "Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform," Ravitch's latest tome is an analysis of today's "education crisis" in which she takes to task those saying the system is broken. According Ravitch, it's not our schools that are broken and need fixing, but rather larger societal issues like America's current socioeconomic divide. Poverty is a problem we should be working to change, she says, not the way our schools are run. In addition, she spends quite a bit of time breaking down the current privatization of education. While Ravitch's last book was a sharp account of the current system, it lacked solutions. She made sure not to make the same mistake this time, as "Reign of Error" is packed with her ideas on how to change the course of our current education trajectory.
4. Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason
NYT Rank: 13
Turn of the century British educator Charlotte Mason is know for her approach to homeschooling and is often credited as one of the first school reformers. Re-published in 1993, the six volumes offer over 2,000 pages of Mason's writing on education, child rearing, and parenting. While some may scoff at the dated words — Mason was dead by the 1920s — it's important to remember that some ideas stand the test of time.
In fact, Mason is revered in many education circles as a revolutionary thinker and one of the first modern education "reformers." She championed the belief that children are people and we must educate the whole person. Her education framework is embodied in her quote, "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” By atmosphere, she is referring to the way a parent behaves around their child, while discipline references the habits we instill in a child and life refers to not just teaching facts but real world experiences. For administrators who may write the book off because they aren't in the business of homeschooling, remember many of the lessons are transferrable to a larger school environment.
5. The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan
NYT Rank: 16
Khan Academy founder Salman Khan has transformed what access to education means. In Khan's view, schools should do away with teacher lectures and mandated calendars, instead allowing students to learn on their own time. According to the book's publisher, Twelve Books, "The One World Schoolhouse" covers a range of topics including: "How both students and teachers are being bound by a broken top-down model invented in Prussia two centuries ago; Why technology will make classrooms more human and teachers more important; How and why we can afford to pay educators the same as other professionals; How we can bring creativity and true human interactivity back to learning; Why we should be very optimistic about the future of learning."
While Khan sees a lot that can change, his book is ultimately positive as he believes it is all possible.