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Book Review

Improving Struggling Schools: A Developmental Approach to Intervention

From the introduction: “This is a book about what’s left undone after the first decade of the accountability movement. More specifically, it’s about how little progress we’ve made in improving the educational outcomes of children in low-performing schools and how state intervention isn’t working in the way that anyone hoped. Finally, it’s about outlining a new orientation that accounts for patterns of growth and change in school improvement, the dilemmas schools face as they navigate the trajectory, and the overarching need to overcome the isolation and confusion that so often thwart their efforts to move forward.

“Time and again, state accountability and intervention in low-performing schools collides with the realities of the established culture and relationships in these schools…. We need to understand better what happens in low-performing schools in the throes of intervention, and then we need to get better at making intervention work.

“The single most important contribution that any school, low-performing or otherwise, can make to its students’ learning will always come from its teachers’ skills. In low-performing schools, the fundamental challenge is to help teachers learn new and more powerful teaching practices and to provide this support coherently and consistently. It’s just not good enough to have a stellar teacher in one room, a mediocre one in the next, and a poor one down the hall. This is the case in nearly every school in the country, and changing this must be the bull’s-eye for every school-improvement effort.”

In this book, Stephens looks at three low-performing schools in Massachusetts, interventions aimed at improving student performance in those schools, and how a different approach to intervention might have changed the way things turned out in those schools.