Getting to Excellent: How to Create Better Schools

Reviewed by Donna S. McCaw

Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill.


Even before No Child Left Behind legislation became a reality, the market was flooded with books declaring the best or easiest road to continuous school improvement. The challenge for the progressive school leader continues to be in the search for the highest-quality, research-based and most usable text on the subject.


Jim Collins provided Good to Great to the world of business and now Judith Langer has contributed to education Getting to Excellent: How to Create Better Schools. Langer, a prominent faculty member at SUNY Albany, offers no major “ahas,” but she has provided a well-organized and qualitatively based text with many practical suggestions and observations. Whether an administrator is just starting to grapple with the continuous improvement process or is in the midst of the process, this book will offer much.


Langer, who directs the Center on English Learning and Achievement, separates schools into two categories that she calls “typical schools” and “schools that work.” The latter is an environment where great things happen for students and educators. Academic achievement is an intentional byproduct of strong parent involvement, outstanding instruction, focused curricula and engaged learners.


Getting to Excellent is an easy read and has much digestible information on a mostly complex topic. I recommend its use in launching serious discussions at the building level among all stakeholders involved in continuous school improvement.

(Getting to Excellent: How to Create Better Schools by Judith A. Langer, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2004, 111 pp., $18.95 softcover)