Excellence through Equity: Courageous Leadership

Excellence through Equity: Five Principles of Courageous Leadership to Guide Achievement for Every Student 
By Alan Blankstein, Pedro Noguera and Lorena Kelly
(ASCD, 2016 – Learn more)

tamekiamccauleyReviewed by Tamekia McCauley

Imagine my excitement when another administrator from my personal learning network posted a screenshot of a signed copy of Excellence through Equity, a book that proposes ways to create equitable schools.

I happily posted a photo of my copy of the book and expressed my eagerness to begin exploring new ways to sharpen my leadership skills as well share new ideas with my PLN.

More about the book

excellence through equity mccauleyThe authors engage the reader with “Five Principles of Courageous Leadership to Guide Achievement for Every Student.” As with many books exploring school leadership, there are no promises of a quick fix. Each program or intervention mentioned within the text was a labor of love, trial, and consistency.

The text is divided into seven major sections:

Part I. For Every Student
Part II. Getting to Your Core
Part III. Making Organizational Meaning
Part IV. Ensuring Constancy and Consistency of Purpose
Part V. Facing the Facts and Your Fears
Part VI. Building Sustainable Relationships

Each major section is then broken down into fifteen smaller chapters which are actual vignettes from school leaders. Score! Real people in real schools! Again, I found myself unable to contain my excitement. Trust me: you’ll feel the same way when you begin reading.

Chapter contributors describe the issue they faced, how their school addressed it, and provide take aways for school leaders who may want to implement the particular practice within their own building.

Feeling part of the team

I ended each chapter feeling as though I was a member of the writer’s team, wishing I could learn more about the current “where are they now” phase of implementation. I was also eager to share more information with my colleagues. A follow-up book to this text would be very beneficial, even if it followed additional schools implementing the programs and interventions described in the current book.

The chapter showcasing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) School District left the most powerful impact on me. Imagine a district where leaders and teachers actually want to be assigned to the lowest performing schools. The authors describe these turn-around specialists as wearing this designation as a “badge of honor.”

I was thoroughly impressed by the district office’s willingness to respond to schools’ needs not just in a timely manner, but with a sense of urgency which rivals that of a paramedic responding in a “911 situation.” What a great model for similar districts to replicate!

Candid looks at meeting challenges

School leaders will appreciate the candidness of the districts profiled within the book. With a strong focus on the presentation of real school stories blended with research based strategies, the text is practical without being too theoretical. While there are many topics presented throughout the book, educators would be best served to focus on one or two areas in their achievement efforts so that paradigm shifts occur in an effective manner.

As the authors state, “This book demonstrates how adopting the win-win paradigm based on the pursuit of excellence through equity can lead to better outcomes for every student.” I look forward to continually improving the educational environment for every student in my building with the assistance of the principles discussed by schools who are putting everything they have into ensuring their students are successful.

Tamekia McCauley is a middle school administrator in Kansas City, KS. Middle school is her absolute favorite level, and she enjoys preparing students for college and career readiness. She has an Ed.D from Baker University, and her research interests are educational inequalities and minority teacher recruitment and retention. Follow her @DrTamekia.


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