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The Answer Is in the Room
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The Answer Is in the Room
How Effective Schools Scale Up Student Success



June 2011 | 144 pages | Corwin
Learn the secrets of successful schools

Citing wisdom from top educational experts and building on what is already working, award-winning author Alan M. Blankstein offers tools for finding excellence in schools, scaling these practices across learning communities, and transforming low-performing schools into high-performing schools. His five-step process includes:

- Identifying and assessing excellence

- Creating an action plan

- Assigning resources such as time, materials, etc.

- Transferring excellence in the form of knowledge and skills throughout the school and district

- Sustaining the excellence

Also included are effective strategies for sustaining student gains, closing gaps within and between schools, building leader capacity, and increasing community commitment.

 
Preface
 
Acknowledgments
 
About the Author
 
Dedication
 
Figures and Tools to Help Answer the Questions in the Room
 
1. Why We Can't Wait to Scale Student Success!
The Power of Positive Deviance Saves Millions of Children in Vietnam

 
Applying Positive Deviance to Education

 
Good News for Scaling Student Success

 
About This Book and Chapter

 
Some Common Core Principles of Networking and PD

 
Challenges to Scaling Success in US Education

 
The Moral and Economic Imperative for Change is Now

 
What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Next?

 
The Big Question

 
References

 
 
2. A Process to CREATE Sustained Student Success
A Movement is Born in U.S. Education – and Exported to Other Nations

 
The Catalyst to Change

 
The CREATE Process

 
The Advantages of the CREATE Process

 
The Big Question

 
References

 
 
3. The Courage to Commit to the Work
Defining Courage

 
Commitment: A Pillar of Courage

 
Building a Collective Commitment to Scale Up Student Success

 
7 Tools for Constructing a Large-Scale Community Commitment

 
Cultivating the Community: Qualities of the Courageous Leader

 
The Big Question

 
References

 
 
4. Resources are in the Room
The Most Valuable Resource: Focused Commitment Over Time

 
The Second Major Resource: Patience and Urgency

 
Third Major Resource: Steering Committee

 
How to Get TIME to Collaborate

 
Getting Down to the Details

 
The Big Question

 
References

 
 
5. Taking Stock of Excellence in the Room
Is there Excellence or Positive Deviance to be Found?

 
Defining Excellence is Done Twice by the Lead Teams

 
Developing a Community to Question the Answer: Language, Purpose and Norms

 
Improving Instructional Practice: Change the Methods and You Will Change the Outcomes

 
Change the Methods and You Will Change the Outcomes

 
The Big Question

 
References

 
 
6. An Action Plan for Engaging the Entire Learning Community
Developing a Common Language for the Action Plan

 
Key Challenges to Address in the Action Plan

 
Reentry Plans to Engage the Larger School Community, Build Trust and Transparency

 
Developing SMART Goals That the School Community Wants to Achieve

 
Successful Implementation of SMART Goals

 
Identifying and Assessing Excellence

 
Next Steps

 
The Big Question

 
References

 
 
7. Transference of Knowledge and Skills Throughout the Learning Community
Transferring Knowledge and Skills within the School

 
Transferring Knowledge and Skills Through-out the District

 
What Are Tuning Protocols?

 
The Big Question

 
References

 
8. Embedding the New Learning in the Culture for Sustainability

 
Three Pillars of Embedding the Process in the School Culture

 
The Big Question

 
References

 
 
Tools to Help Answer the Questions in the Room
 
Tool A: Writing an Instructional SMART Goal Worksheet
 
Tool B: Strategies for Making Time
 
Tool C: Agreement of PURPOSE Worksheet
 
Tool D: Creating Group Norms: Facilitator Guide Example
 
Tool E: An Example Participant Handout for Creating Group Norms
 
Tool F: Steps of "Instructional Learning Walks"
 
Tool G: Indicators of Quality Instructional Learning Walks Observation Sheet
 
Index

"A common-sense approach to addressing the obstacles and barriers that often stymie school success. By drawing on examples from schools that have a track record of beating the odds, Blankstein and his collaborators have created a resource that will be invaluable for educators who are searching for answers to the challenges they face. Insightful, enlightening and accessible."

Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education
New York University, New York, NY

“Blankstein’s new book brilliantly summarizes a wealth of information about what works in closing the achievement gap. A must-read for practitioners.”

Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow and Author
Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

"Another passionate and stirring book from Alan Blankstein! Weaving together evidence, inspiring stories and resources, he leads the reader to an exciting place where it’s just the norm for everyone to learn with and from others within and across their schools. And it all starts with questions. So what are you waiting for?"

Louise Stoll, Professor
London Centre for Leadership in Learning, UK

"In The Answer is in the Room, Alan Blankstein applies the lessons he has learned from working with schools around his 'Failure is Not an Option' program. As usual, Alan offers practical and timely lessons for schools and districts. But in this new book, he goes further to talk about what it really takes to get the answers and he posits that we already know because the answer is in the room, and it must come from all of us. This is a timely and helpful book.”

Paul Houston, Author
Center for Empowered Leadership, Allentown, NJ

"This book has it right—the secret is that there is no secret. With Alan, we need to shout it out. We do know how to scale up student success; we do have excellent instruction to surge into classrooms; and we do have communities of practice that bring stakeholders together who reject failure. This new system is aborning, and we need to celebrate its beginnings and tend to its growth. Readers: unite with purpose!"

 ,

Robert C. Hughes, President and CEO
National Institute for School Leadership, Washington, DC

"Every principle in this book is grounded in experience and illustrated with case examples from which any educator can learn. I believe the most essential elements for scaling up involve respecting and nurturing local examples of success, and having the courage to commit to positive change. The Answer Is In The Room has captured it brilliantly - now it's time for education policy to allow educators to bring the answer into the schoolhouse."

 

Maurice J. Elias, Psychology Professor
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

"With a new explosion of bad ideas for education reform, we need Alan Blankstein’s positive defiance! The Answer is in the Room is rich with tools for improving schools from the inside out. Blankstein reminds educators that we have more answers than we think—we can be the change we wish to see."

John Wilson, Executive Director
National Education Association, Washington, DC

"This book is phenomenal! It embodies everything I believe concerning excellence in education. Alan has documented the road to excellence. I will definitely use this book when working with districts on school improvement or moving from good to great!"

Deborah L. Wortham, Superintendent
Steelton-Highspire School District, PA

"Alan Blankstein spells out a workable approach to school improvement rooted in experience and common sense. His book is a breath of fresh air and a welcome relief from the ideological banter that passes for school reform in the current climate."

Edward Fiske, Author
FiskeGuide.com, Alstead, NH

The Answer in the Room really does provide the answer to school improvement. What makes it great is that it is an economical and effective answer – we know what to do and can collaboratively apply the knowledge and skills that educators in the each district already have to achieve great gains in student learning."

Ken O'Connor, Author
Assess For Success Consulting, Scarborough, ON, Canada

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