Book Review

Finding Your Leadership Focus

What Matters Most for Student Results

by Douglas B. Reeves, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y. 157 pp. with index, $23.95 softcover

 

Focus on six initiatives or less.

 

That’s what Douglas Reeves suggests in Finding Your Leadership Focus: What Matters Most for Student Results. Based on a study of 2,000 schools, this book highlights what makes the biggest difference for student learning.

 

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The cluster of leadership skills that mattered most, Reeves says, are focus, monitoring and efficacy. Schools with more than six initiatives suffered initiative fatigue, resignation, anger and despair.

Effective leaders focus more on practices and less on programs. In fact, Reeves says that having too many programs is counterproductive, hindering student performance and draining leadership resources. Instead, he advises leaders to concentrate on initiatives that are truly important to their specific community and to group practices into clusters that tie together. They then monitor each initiative at least five times per year, tying formative assessments with data analysis, student feedback and specific teaching strategies. “Leadership,” says Reeves, “is focusing expectations and using results to improve efficacy.”

Reeves urges leaders to make conscious decisions to remove burdens of time, practice and tradition to make more time for learning. The leadership self-assessment he proposes asks readers to reflect on issues such as using clear scoring rubrics for gauging the effectiveness of district initiatives. Effective leaders, the author says, constantly ask, “What will I give up, take off the table or stop doing?”

As a superintendent I found many useful tools in this book. It provides concrete suggestions to sharpen focus and make students more successful.

Reviewed by Larry L. Nyland, superintendent, Marysville Schools, Marysville, Wash.