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Learning First!
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Learning First!
A School Leader's Guide to Closing Achievement Gaps

Edited by:


August 2009 | 216 pages | Corwin
'With the spotlight on schools and the achievement of subgroups of students, educators need to read this book and reflect on the guiding questions. Then we need to take the challenge and do what we know is right so we are doubling student performance and closing achievement gaps'—Leslie Standerfer, Principal

Estrella Foothills High School, Goodyear, AZ

'This text is the product of considerable research and disciplined reflection on closing the student achievement gap in schools, unquestionably the most important challenge facing schools. The book offers a wealth of well-illustrated advice about how to address this challenge and should be required reading for every principal and superintendent'—Kenneth Leithwood, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

The keys to closing achievement gaps from principals who have been there!

What does it take to reach across cultural and socioeconomic barriers to bridge student achievement gaps? Drawing on five years of nationwide research, the authors present Learning First, an integrated schoolwide framework of collaborative leadership that helps school leaders advance learning for all students. Using case examples that illustrate how Learning First works in action and providing worksheets, checklists, and rubrics to support implementation, the book shows principals how to apply this field-tested model to four critical dimensions of leadership:

- Advancing equity and excellence in student learning

- Developing teachers' instructional capacity

- Managing and aligning resources

- Building and engaging community

Learning First! offers an approach that strengthens principals' leadership skills, delineates shared goals for professional communities, and helps educators keep their eyes on the prize—closing the achievement gap in their schools.


 
Table of Cases
 
Table of Tools
 
Preface
 
Part I. Introduction
 
1. The Case for Learning First
 
2. The Road Map for Learning First
 
Part II. Socio-Cognitive Leadership
 
3. Setting Direction and Building Commitment
 
4. Evidence-Based Plan, Value-Added Results, and Reflection for Continuous Improvements
 
Part III. The Dimensions of Leadership for Learning
 
5. Advancing Equity and Excellence in Student Learning
 
6. Developing Teacher Capacity
 
7. Managing and Aligning Resources
 
8. Engaging Community
 
Part IV. Levers of Change
 
9. The Principal's Role
 
10. The District Role
 
Resource A. Socio-Cognitive Leadership Rubrics
 
Resource B. Socio-Cognitive Leadership Friendly Observer Site Visit Protocol
 
References
 
Index

“This text is the product of considerable research and disciplined reflection on closing the student achievement gap in schools, unquestionably the most important challenge facing schools at this time. It offers a wealth of well-illustrated advice, especially to those in school and district leadership roles, about how to go about addressing this challenge in their organizations. It should be required reading for every principal and superintendent.”

Kenneth Leithwood, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Our school’s national testing results need to improve, and as the principal I have been generating strategies, with my staff, to turn those results around. We have developed lots of good, solid strategies, but the bit that was missing is how we hold this new plan together. Then I found Kelley and Shaw’s Learning First, and it pushed me back into the big picture stuff, where I should have been all this time.

The book is based on contemporary leadership research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The opening sentence struck an immediate chord: “Diversity is the greatest strength of public schools, and their greatest challenge”. (p. xi) That’s where we are at. Other points of engagement were: the moral imperative for Learning First, addressing the achievement gaps, and the resource gaps, which are often overlooked.

The conceptual framework of Learning First in visual form looks like many other concentric-circle models. The elements are what makes it different: socio-cognitive leadership, the dimensions of leadership for learning, and levers of change (shown in Figure 2.1). This framework is repeated throughout the book, showing how the parts are integrated.

This book, beside generating strategies that can be transferred across education systems, is focused and practical. This is higher-level leadership coaching that is very applicable in a variety of school situations.

Because the book is fulfilling an immediate need for my school community, I would give it 6 stars (out of five), if I could.

Neil MacNeill, Principal
Ellenbrook Primary School, WA, Australia

"The Learning First framework provides a much-needed bridge between the current research in leadership and instruction and the day-to-day practice of leading a school."

Art Rainwater, Associate Visiting Scientist, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Retired Superintendent, Madison Metropolitan School District, WI

“In a time when the spotlight is on schools and the achievement of subgroups of students, educators need to read this book and reflect on the guiding questions. Then we need to take the challenge and do what we know is right so we are doubling student performance and closing achievement gaps.”

Leslie Standerfer, Principal
Estrella Foothills High School, Goodyear, AZ
Key features
  • Provides a new, research-based model of leadership to increase student learning
  • Shows how to apply this leadership model to 4 critical dimensions of leadership: advancing equity and excellence in student learning, developing teacher capacity, managing and aligning resources, and engaging community.
  • Offers case examples throughout the book that illustrate how school leaders put Learning First and closed achievement gaps
  • Provides tools that school and district leaders can use with their school communities to build shared understandings and advance learning for all students, including a rubric, numerous strategies, and audits
  • For each of the four Dimensions of Leadership for Learning, audits with guiding questions help school communities effectively examine school data and processes and identify areas of focus for improvement efforts
  • A Table of Cases and Table of Tools enable easy reference to the examples and instruments provided throughout the text
  • Two resources summarize the Learning First framework:
    • Resource A is a Socio-Cognitive Leadership Rubric that provides a set of questions that focus work on the four Dimensions of Leadership for Learning, and a rubric that can be used to formatively assess the implementation of Socio-Cognitive Leadership at the novice, journey, and master levels
    • Resource B is a user-friendly protocol that helps school communities assess how they are doing, identify areas for improvement in leadership development and school improvement, and make decisions about what their next steps will be

Sample Materials & Chapters

Preface


Preview this book

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