Book Review

The Power of Focus

By Jeff Nelsen, Joe Palumbo, Amalia Cudeiro and Jan Leight, Focus on Results, Huntington Beach, Calif., 2005, 226 pp., $24.50 softcover

Is there a way to improve the learning of all students regardless of race, gender and socioeconomic background? Jeff Nelsen and three colleagues who are founding members of the Focus on Results consulting group, believe there is.

In their book, The Power of Focus: Lessons Learned in District and School Improvement, they propose a framework and strategies that can be applied in schools and districts that are aimed at the measureable improvement of instruction. Their framework consists of seven focus areas derived from research on school improvement and the authors' experiences as educational administrators.

The book provides extensive details for each focus area starting with a section called "Foundations." Strategies for getting started are provided, followed by suggestions for district support and a section called "Tools for Leaders," containing activities to help with implementation. Short vignettes called "Stories From the Field" illustrate how the strategies have been applied in school districts.

The authors contend that schools that have shown dramatic improvement enjoyed leadership that was transformational, instructional, reflective and intentional. They give evidence suggesting that central offices should change their traditional operations and become more of a central service agency providing as-needed support to the schools. For improvements to be lasting, they must start with systemic improvement at the district level.

The Power of Focus ends with a commercial on how the consulting group can help, followed by appendices, applicable research and a bibliography.

Reviewed by Leonard H. Elovitz, associate professor of educational leadership, Kean University, Union, N.J.