Book Review

Turnaround Leadership

by Michael Fullan, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif., 2006, 97 pp. with index, $22 softcover

The need for turnaround leadership is emphasized by Michael Fullan with his definition of the real reform agenda. The latter, he says, means raising the income bar while closing the gap between the richest and the poorest of society, ideally resulting in social justice, health and well-being and economic prosperity for all. Education is the key to closing that gap.

Fullan, professor of policy studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, believes educational systems that close the achievement gap have developed strategies for building capacity among their staff members with a focus on results. Successful leaders initially focus on literacy and numeracy and the emotional, cognitive and physical well-being of students. They are driven by respect for all and ensure the best people are working on the project.

Recognizing lack of capacity as the initial problem and then working to increase capacity while establishing conditions for positive pressure leads to successful change.

Positive pressure involves removing excuses by adding resources, providing examples of similar schools that are successful and reducing unnecessary paper work, ineffective procedures, and bad relationships with teacher unions. Connections are established among schools and communities to create motivation for reform.

Data are vital tools for understanding and improving performance, placing the emphasis on doing rather than planning. Conversations in the classrooms about changes in instruction can turn school systems around.

Reviewed by Linda Gray Smith, superintendent, Worth County RIII School District, Grant City, Mo.