How It's Being Done: Urgent Lessons from Unexpected Schools

Jack Byers

Karin Chenoweth
Harvard Education Press
September 2009

This is Karin Chenoweth’s follow-up to It’s Being Done, her 2007 profile of fifteen successful public schools (what she calls “an attempt to prove it’s possible to overcome demography”). This time around, she seeks to explain the secrets of their success. The eight schools she profiles herein tend to have well-defined, content-based curricula, clear standards and the “five elements of the ‘wheel’ of school reform”: “personal relationship-building,” “teacher collaboration,” “a laserlike focus on what students need to learn,” “formative assessments,” and “data-driven instruction.” In other words, no student falls through the cracks, teachers can learn from each other (and the schools invest in professional development), teaching is content- rather than skills-based, and testing is used as a diagnostic rather than the rubric for instruction. Yet despite her intentions, Chenoweth admits that these five elements are no cure-all. Actually, that's kind of the point. The schools she profiles all echo certain abstract themes but turn out to be surprisingly diverse in their cultures and methods. To those seeking a formula for replication and “scaling,” Chenoweth responds that she can only give them a framework to create their own school. The book is available for purchase here.

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