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Book Review

Bringing School Reform to Scale: Five Award-Winning Urban Districts

This book looks in detail at five school districts that have been honored in recent years by The Broad Foundation, whose annual award is granted “each year to the urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students.”

Zavadsky examines five Broad Prize winners—Long Beach Unified School District (California), Garden Grove Unified School District (California), Norfolk Public Schools (Virginia), Boston Public Schools (Massachusetts), and Aldine Independent School District (Texas).

She writes: “The districts featured in this book… face the challenges typically found in urban districts—60 to 85 percent of their students are on the free-or reduced-price lunch program, and 54 to 80 percent are minorities. Yet their student achievement and improvement scores stood out among the hundred districts eligible for The Broad Prize.

As she notes, “the successes highlighted in this book do not represent one-year positive performance blips in these districts, and this book does not provide a list of ‘best practice’ silver bullets that sound effective but cannot be applied outside a unique context. Rather, the book describes the paths these districts have taken over years of intentional, sustained, patient focus on improving teaching and learning that fully aligns instructional practices across all organizational levels of a school system—something that can be done in any district given the knowledge and tools.”