Book Reviews

Failure Is Not an Option: Six Principles That Guide Student Achievement in High-Performing Schools

by Alan M. Blankstein

Reviewed by David Smette
Superintendent, Jamestown, N.D.,
Public Schools

Schools across the United States are struggling to improve their students’ achievement under the expectations of No Child Left Behind legislation.

Alan Blankstein, who runs the Hope Foundation in Bloomington, Ind., has used research into high-performing schools to develop the six principles that the Foundation used to create and sustain professional learning communities. This makes Failure Is Not an Option a great book that school leaders can use to focus their efforts.

Blankstein’s work has good practical value, and I used the six guiding principles as the foundation for my summer retreat with my administrative staff. These principles set the stage nicely for focusing our work this year and into the future to continuously improve and to make adequate yearly progress.

The author uses case studies, research and practical illustrations of how existing high-performing schools have created and sustained a culture of professional learning communities. Guiding principles deal with developing a common mission and systems for prevention and intervention when achievement lags, collaborative teaming and the active engagement of family.

He shows how to use test data and other information to make decisions about what to improve and how to proceed. Finally, Blankstein discusses how high-performing schools build the leadership capacity to sustain the improvements.

(Failure Is Not an Option: Six Principles That Guide Student Achievement in High-Performing Schools by Alan M. Blankstein, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2004, 288 pp., $32.95 softcover, $69.95 hardcover)