Book Review

Turning Average Instruction into Great Instruction

School Leadership’s Role in Student Achievement

edited by John O’Connor, Rowman & Littlefield Education, Lanham, Md., 2009, 136 pp., $60 cloth, $25.95 softcover

In Turning Average Instruction into Great Instruction: School Leadership’s Role in Student Achievement, John O’Connor provides a model of how to implement schoolwide and districtwide instructional improvement plans, address the direct correlation between classroom instruction and student achievement and change teacher practices when achievement lags.

Turning Average Instruction into Great Instruction

O’Connor, executive director for special services in the DeKalb County, Ga., schools, believes education leaders play a huge role in creating a vision, setting priorities and taking necessary steps toward improving classroom instruction. In his book, he creates a plan of action for high-ranking district administrators in which a leadership team together works to “develop the support, coaching, feedback momentum and direction needed” for teachers to improve their instructional skills.

The book begins by identifying potential members of the leadership team and how to use the book as a tool for guiding the team through the change process. O’Connor says great instruction is engaging and exciting, guided by the curriculum, with rigor generated from research-based activities. It is tailored through the use of flexible grouping. Using these principles, the leadership team must define what great instruction is and what it looks like within their district.

With a vision created, the leadership team is further guided to develop support systems and provide explicit training for staff members to change adult practices (Chapter 3) and equip teachers to provide great instruction (Chapter 5). O’Connor illustrates the road to reform (what the leadership team is planning to implement) by using actual school examples. Practices such as tiers of interventions, data analysis for guiding instruction and teaching differentiation are emphasized.

O’Connor reminds educators to review current practices in order to focus on instructional components that improve instruction and discard those that do not.

Reviewed by Edythe B. Austermuhl, superintendent, Deerfield Township School, Rosenhayn, N.J.