Three Professional Reads That are Worth Your Time

Let's start with a simple truth:  The best school leaders — whether they are classroom teachers, principals, or district professional development providers — should ALWAYS be reading simply because reading keeps a practitioner current and serves as a source of constant intellectual challenge. 

But ask around a little bit and you'll probably discover that there's NOT a lot of reading going on in your professional circles — and "finding the time" is the explanation that most people will give for failing to turn any pages during the past twelve months. 

That makes sense, doesn't it?

After all, we really ARE busy people working in a busy profession that does little to create time and space for practitioners to reflect and to think and to grow. 

So I decided to whip up a list of three professional books that really ARE worth your time no matter HOW busy you are.  

Here they are:

Common Formative Assessment: A Toolkit for PLCs at Work

Several years ago, I stumbled across this quote from educational researcher John Hattie in a Bob Marzano book: “The most powerful
single modification that enhances achievement is feedback.  The simplest prescription for improving
education must be 'dollops of feedback.'” (As quoted in Marzano, 2003, p. 37)

It's a GREAT point, isn't it?  And it resonates with everything that we know about growing learners.  Feedback matters.

But providing "dollops of feedback" is a HECK of a lot harder than it sounds when you are responsible for 125 students who are assigned to classes of 30+ and you have 60 minutes of planning on a good day. 

Under those conditions, timely, direct feedback on performance becomes nearly impossible.

That's what makes Common Formative Assessment by Kim Bailey and Chris Jakicic such an important read.  The authors take a difficult task and show teachers how to make it a manageable part of their everyday work.  

If you are a teacher, pick this up and work through it with your learning team.  You'll have a better sense for just what responsible formative assessment is supposed to look like AND some practical strategies for incorporating it into your practice without killing yourself. 

If you are a principal, share this with your entire faculty.  Formative assessment matters — but teachers have to be convinced that it's doable.  That's exactly what Bailey and Jakicic do in this short, approachable text. 


Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

As a member of a panel discussion on the challenges of recruiting accomplished teachers to challenging schools a few years ago, I was asked a simple question by a district superintendent.  "How can I get more teachers like you in  my schools?" he said.

My answer was immediate: "Find as many amazing principals as you can.  Hire them, develop them, and pay them a heaping cheeseload of cash to stay.  Spend more time on recruiting and retaining school leaders because good teachers want to work for good principals."

If you agree with my logic that good principals matter, then you've got to read Multipliers by Liz Wiseman and Greg Mckeown.

Based years of experience coaching the senior leadership of leading companies and thousands of hours combing through data on the traits of leaders who succeed, Wiseman and Mckeown identify the characteristics of Multipliers — leaders who get the most out of their people — and Diminishers, or leaders whose very behaviors hold organizations back.

What I like the best about Multipliers is that it gives tangible language for describing the kinds of steps that successful leaders take to empower their employees. 

While Multipliers isn't written specifically for schools, superintendents, principals and teacher leaders could pick this title up and quickly identify simple leadership changes that would leave their co-workers energized and their organizations more productive.


Why School?  How Education Must Change When Learning and Information are Everywhere

I am a firm believer that public schools will never become the kinds of responsive, student-centered, progressive learning spaces that we want them to be until we can describe those spaces in simple, user-friendly language that everyone — parents, policymakers and practitioners — can understand.

That's why I think Will Richardson's newest book — Why School? — is worth your time. 

Not only is Why School a 51-page Kindle Single that you'll be able to read in one sitting, it's a title that you can easily share with everyone that needs to know more about the hows-and-whys behind the kinds of changes that most of us believe in. 

Will has accomplished something significant with Why School:  He's created a tool that interested educators — and people who are interested in education — can use to start the kinds of community-based conversations that might actually lead to real change for our schools. 


So whaddya' think of my list?  Have you read any of these titles yet? Would you recommend them to time-crunched peers?

What books would you describe as "must-reads?"


Related Radical Reads:

What Are YOU Doing to Make Sure Your Students are Well-Googled?

Are Current #edpolicies Turning Schools into Brainpower Wastelands?

Is REAL Formative Assessment Even Possible?

11 thoughts on “Three Professional Reads That are Worth Your Time

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Howe Principal wrote:
    We have been using your Building a PLC book in my leadership team. Very helpful resource
    – – – – – – – – –
    Jazzed to hear it, Howe Prinicipal!
    Be sure to let me know if you want to Skype to talk in more detail. Im always willing, thats for sure.
    Be well,

  2. HowePrincipal

    I’ve read Why School? and now have the other two on my wish list. Thanks for the great recommendations. We have been using your Building a PLC book in my leadership team. Very helpful resource.
    I would recommend Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. I have changed the way I communicate with students after reading this resource, along with his previous work Choice Words.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Bob,
    First, thanks for stopping by! Good to see you here and hope you have a good holiday.
    Second, Creating Innovators is a good read. Thanks for reminding me about it. I made it through about half of it before putting it down. I need to go back and finish it up.
    And Im interested in that structured teaching book. It resonates with the RTI concept that you have to have some instructional fidelity in order to ensure that quality teaching is going on before you start planning interventions.
    Anyway….thanks a ton for sharing.

  4. Jennifer

    A colleague recently recommended Why School? to me. It’s a quick read with some thoughtful insights about the purpose and function of school in the 21st century compared to an assembly line education most students are still being subjected to today. Worth the read.

  5. Centerteach

    Thanks for the three suggestions. I would agree that the Jackaic and Bailey book is worth the read. I read it a year ago and it helped me understand the need for and value of common balanced assessment writinhg on grade-level teams. Have not read the other two but will add them to my list.
    I have been reading a book by Jim Knight, which I highly recommend, Instructional Coaching. The other book that is quite good is Better Learning Through Sttructured Teaching by Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey. Finally, Creating Innovators, by Tony Wagner, is a great piece on innovation with some worthy applications to the world of K-12 schools.

  6. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Kristen,
    Thanks a ton for the recommendations! Im looking forward to checking them out, thats for sure.
    And heres to hoping that you have a good holiday too. Looking forward (hopefully) to seeing you at Educon!
    Rock on,

  7. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Bob…
    Looking forward to checking out Makers. Its a concept that Im really in to right now.
    Hadnt heard of the book, though…Looking forward to checking it out.
    Hope youre well and that you have a great holiday!

  8. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Dan,
    Thanks for the heads up on Econ Talk. Id never heard of it before. Going to have to check it out.
    A tech ed guy I know here in NC has a 3D printer, but the districts new curriculum for his course doesnt have any elements that make that printer useful. Hes furious — both about the lost cash and the lost opportunity for kids!
    Rock on,

  9. Dan Winters

    Multipliers is a great summary of the leadership approaches that attract and continuously encourage quality educators.
    Can’t wait to read Richardon ebook and will get the Firmative Assessment book for my staff for 13-14.
    I also just heard Chris Anderson on Econtalk and he definitely got me thinking about how to get 3D printing and manufacturing in the hands of our students.

  10. Bob Dillon

    I am reading Makers by Chris Anderson, and I really think that he is discussing a trend that our schools aren’t preparing kids for. We need to unleash kids to be entrepreneurs of small-batches of incredible manufactured goods. The next industrial revolution.

  11. Kristenswanson

    Hey Bill,
    I’ve read all three of these titles and I LOVE them all! I just finished reading Multipliers last week. It has given me incredibly helpful labels when talking with school leaders. The other two were certainly influential on my practice as well. I’d also recommend Making Learning Whole by David Perkins and Mob Rule Learning by Michelle Boule. Enjoy your holiday! ~Kristen

Comments are closed.