Book Review

What School Boards Can Do: Reform Governance for Urban Schools

by Donald R. McAdams, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2006, 192 pp. with index, $31.95 softcover

In What School Boards Can Do, Don McAdams emphasizes that strong superintendent leadership is required to effect fundamental change. Even though this book is intended for urban leaders and school boards, its content can be applied easily in all settings because its recommendations are universal.

High on the list of obstacles that may impede superintendents' effectiveness are school boards. McAdams says the relationship is one of the most important indicators of future success in the district.

An effective superintendent, he contends, must collaborate with the board to establish core beliefs, vision and goals; formulate a theory of action; develop polices; allocate resources; and oversee effective policy implementation and management systems. These responsibilities belong to the board to carry out, not the superintendent, he argues.

McAdams explores ways that boards and superintendents can work together as a high-performing team to effectively redesign their school systems. The overarching objective of the school board must be to create a system in which all students perform at high levels to be prepared for college or the workforce.

The author speaks from the perspective of a reform-minded school board member giving a clear and concise description of the important role and hard work required of school board members and superintendents to ensure high levels of achievement for all students.

Reviewed by Anthony P. Cavanna, school reform scientist, American Institutes for Research, Washington, D.C.