Foreword by: Joseph P. McDonald
Publication Date: April 19, 2019
This book is for educators who believe that schools need to be improved and are hopeful that real change can be achieved. The authors argue that if educators want to create more equitable, socially just, and learner-focused schools, then they need a more robust, transformational theory of school change—an UnCommon Theory. After describing the limits of current school improvement initiatives, the authors explain what is needed to actually engage in deeper school reinvention work. They take a deep dive into the most difficult work that school leaders do: questioning, rethinking, and reinventing the fundamental assumptions upon which our schools are built. The result is a practical book that provides readers with the knowledge and tools needed to do more than just tinker at the edges of school improvement.
Kevin Fahey, professor emeritus at Salem State University, works with school leaders to use critical friendship, facilitative leadership, and equitable practice to lead student, adult, and organizational learning. Angela Breidenstein is a professor of education at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Jacy Ippolito is an associate professor and department chair at Salem State University, where he coordinates programs in educational leadership. Frances Hensley was a founding member and director of the School Reform Initiative.
“…provides the reader with an alternative to the well-practiced Common Theory of school reform…The stories shared in each chapter provide the reader with real-life examples of how the three components of the deep dive can be used to reinvent schools. Moreover, the book offers an approach to change that can make a difference in the way our students are educated."
—Teachers College Record
“This book will serve as a trusty coaching guide. The writing is clear and powerful. The testimony of the courageous and inventive school practitioners the authors studied is rich and exceedingly useful. “
―From the Foreword by Joseph P. McDonald, New York University
“This book is wonderful, well written, thoughtful, and practical, with vivid case studies of school leaders who have changed the culture of their schools to become uncommon places of inspiration for all. Those educators contemplating or already on the journey of re-imagining their schools will find comfort and guidance to forge ahead.”
― Carl Glickman, The University of Georgia
“School reform is complex, and as a result, most schools closely resemble their predecessors from decades ago. However, fundamental change in schools is possible, and the deep-dive process proposed in this book will equip readers with the tools necessary to create powerful transformations. An UnCommon Theory of School Change can help each of us become the advocates for change that result in a better future for every student in every school.”
―Douglas Fisher, San Diego State University
"In An UnCommon Theory of School Change, the authors have captured beautifully what real school change looks like: messy, muddy, deep work that is often challenging to name and hard to implement. There are no quick fixes, and tweaking around the edges does not create lasting change. With thoughtful stories of real people, combined with specific tools and processes, this book will support educators to think differently about what it means to not only improve schools, but also to move toward sustainable change that has the capacity to truly support the learning of each and every student."
—Kari Thierer, former executive director, School Reform Initiative
Foreword by Joseph P. McDonald
Chapter 1. Navigating the Waters of School Change
The 21st-Century Context for Schools
What is the Common Theory for Improving Schools?
What This Book Is About: An UnCommon Theory of School Change
Chapter 2. The Deep Dive: An UnCommon Theory
Where the Common Theory Ends and the UnCommon Theory Begins
Challenging the Common Theory and "Solutionitis"
The UnCommon Theory: Exploring the Deep Dive Theory and Practice: The Deep Dive in Context
Deep Dives Over Time
Chapter 3. Observing: The First Phase of the Deep Dive
Observing at Prospect Hill Academy
Observing at Mathis International Studies Academy
Observing Culture, Building Capacity, and Managing Anxiety
Culture, Capacity, and Anxiety: It All Works Together
Chapter 4. Observing: In Practice
Tools for Observing and Uncovering
Protocols in Action: A Trajectory of Risk
Supporting Observing with Protocols
Preparing for the Turn: The Second Phase of the Deep Dive
Chapter 5. Turning: The Second Phase of the Deep Dive
The Turn at Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School
The Turn at North Reading Middle School
What to Expect in the Turn
Why Is This So Hard?
Chapter 6. Turning: In Practice
Developing External Capacity
A Final Word About Turning
Chapter 7. Enacting: The Third Phase of the Deep Dive
Enacting the Future at Attucks Middle School
Enacting the Future at Barrow Elementary School
Enacting and Realizing the Dimensions of Culture, Capacity, and Anxiety
Utilizing Strategies for Enacting the Future
Enacting a Better Future
Chapter 8. Enacting: In Practice—Co-Enacting
Co-Enacting a Better Future at Barrow Elementary School
Co-Enacting a Better Future at Attucks Middle School
Co-Enacting an Aspirational Future
The Good News About This Hard Work: Creating Enduring Capacity
Chapter 9. A Book for Activists
Beyond Turning Up The Heat
Contradictory Advice on Navigating the Deep Dive
Reminders About Contradictory Advice and Reframing
What Was It All About?
About the Authors and the Leaders Profiled