Book Review                                      Online Exclusive


I Used to Think …

and Now I Think…  

Twenty Leading Educators Reflect on the Work of School Reform

edited by Richard F. Elmore, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2011, 200 pp., $21.95 softcover


Author Richard Elmore, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, concluded each of his courses with an exercise called “I used to think …, and now I think ….” It asked students to record key ideas and preconceptions they had when they entered the course and later to list their thoughts on the same subject after the course. This protocol originated with Harvard Project Zero.

Elmore wrote about how his own thinking had changed over the course of his 40-year career, which stimulated this book of 20 essays, each written by a distinguished educator. They use the titular technique to reflect on how their thinking has changed during their professional career.

Being a reflective practitioner is critical today. The contributors to this book have modeled what it is to be a member of a professional learning community. These leading educators were courageous in examining their own thoughts and development, professional and personal.

For example, in an essay titled “Turning Around on Turnarounds,” Charles Payne discusses how over the course of several years he has gone from dismissing the idea of school turnarounds to thinking they are possible, if executed properly. The question to bring to the turnaround discussion, he concluded, isn’t whether it is a good or bad idea, but rather, “What would it take for us to make something out of it?” What a provocative thought.

The book’s essayists include leading educators at every level of school reform, from administrators to policy makers to community organizers. Their retrospection on the personal experiences and intellectual journeys that have shaped their work make the book a must read for practitioners, policy makers and researchers alike.

Reviewed by Diane E. Reed, co-director, Graduate Educational Leadership Program, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, N.Y.


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