Lynn Fielding, Nancy Kerr, and Paul Rosier, New Foundation Press
This book didn't create much buzz when released last year. In fact, it didn't even fly into the Gadfly's nest until two weeks ago. Nonetheless, the story it relates deserves attention. In 1995, long before No Child Left Behind became a household phrase, the superintendent of southwest Washington state's Kennewick School District, Paul Rosier, announced that 90 percent of second graders would be reading at grade level by 1998. A bold statement for a school district that in 1996 saw just one of its thirteen elementary schools hit that mark, and only two other schools come within 10 points. In its effort to reach its stated goal, a lot of mistakes were made. So many, in fact, that by 1998 Rosier conceded he hadn't a clue how to attain the mark. "We had thought it was a matter ... of working harder. It wasn't," write the authors. So in 1999 the district changed strategies and embraced aggressive testing in order to identify students' sub-skill deficiencies. It then took the "radical" step of introducing proportional increases in direct instructional time. The further behind a student was in reading, the more hours per day dedicated to reading instruction. By 2004, 8 of 13 schools had hit the mark, and 4 of the remaining 5 were within 10 points. The district has since adopted the goal of 95 percent of students reading at grade level. What sets Delivering on the Promise apart is that this book goes far beyond faceless charts and stats (though there are plenty here) to chronicle the real-life ups and downs of district leaders and teachers struggling to teach their students to read. No punches are pulled and missteps are owned up to. That's why Hollywood won't be busting down any doors to film this story: it offers no overnight success that brings a short-lived high. Rather, it's a tribute to the results that hard work, commitment, and sensible testing bring to teachers and their students.