Book Reviews

Moving Upward Together: Creating Strategic Alignment to Sustain Systemic School Improvement

by Francis M. Duffy

Reviewed by Gregory A. Firn
Superintendent, Milford Public Schools, Milford Conn.

This present generation of educational leaders faces an unprecedented list of rules, regulations and requirements to produce what no group of public school educators has done before--universal proficiency of the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics. This is the fundamental challenge of systems leadership--the implementation of a continuous systems improvement methodology that authentically transforms a systems culture.

Moving Upward Together: Creating Strategic Alignment to Sustain Systemic School Improvement by Francis M. Duffy provides a well-articulated methodology for school leaders to design, deploy and sustain systems improvement.

The author’s work unpacks and demystifies the change process through examples from school systems that over time have demonstrated profound systems transformation resulting in improved student learning and achievement. Elementary to systems transformation is first an understanding of systems--that is how schools function as a system followed by development of a plan to strategically align all aspects of the school system.

The author, who is a professor of change leadership in education at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., outlines in four steps how to redesign a school system. The author goes to great lengths to set the context--or the “what” and “why” of this work--before embarking on a journey of unquestionable adventure and anxiety.

To that end, Duffy engages the reader in a robust conversation around foundational systems knowledge, his change methodology titled Step-Up-To-Excellence and results from school systems that employed his design.

He provides no easy answers or quick fixes. The work of transforming a system is daunting at best. However, the work is made more doable by clear examples of processes that have produced the results we seek. Duffy has provided a vehicle to achieve those results.

(Moving Upward Together: Creating Strategic Alignment to Sustain Systemic School Improvement by Francis M. Duffy, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., 2004, 288 pp. with index, $39.95 softcover)