Format of Original
University Council for Educational Administration
What are the necessary and sufficient ingredients that lead to substantial improvement in student learning in urban schools? How do they work together? What happens if one of these necessary components is missing? Organizing Schools for Improvement (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2009) is an ambitious work that both raises these big questions and addresses them with aplomb. As inequities in educational opportunities persist (Borman & Dowling, 2010), transforming education, particular public urban schooling, remains a vexing and urgent problem. In recent decades public discourse regarding addressing this has swelled, but policies promising transformation have proven ineffectual (Ravitch, 2010a, 2010b). A narrowing focus on rudimentary indicators of student achievement has constrained public discourse around the underlying purposes of schooling (Rose, 2009). In this context Organizing Schools emerges as a masterful work providing salient, compelling evidence regarding how to address this national concern. Lauded as the most important research in a decade on the topic (Scheurich, Goddard, Skrla, McKenzie, & Youngs, 2010), Bryk and colleagues have crafted a rare work that has emerged as essential reading for practitioners, scholars, and policy makers, particularly in the field of educational leadership. The extraordinary dimension of the study is not that it establishes leadership as playing a central role in orchestrating school improvement. This central finding, though powerful, has been well documented elsewhere (e.g., Wahlstrom, Seashore Louis, Leithwood, & Anderson, 2010). Rather, the power in Organizing Schools is unpacking how leadership works to promote school improvement in concert with four other dimensions, and how these five components are both necessary and sufficient to drive substantive school improvement. In this essay review I first describe the primary aims and findings of Organizing Schools and then examine concrete implications of this work, specifically attending to leadership preparation and future research in the field of educational leadership.