Book Review                                                 Page 42


Simply Better 

Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success   

by Bryan Goodwin, ASCD, Alexandria, Va., 2011, 184 pp., $26.95 softcover


Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success exposes the elephant in the room that educators will not acknowledge — the enormous accumulation of education research that has had negligible impact on student achievement.

Author Bryan Goodwin, vice president of communications and marketing at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, distills and condenses complex and often contradictory research findings into a manageable course of action. He makes a convincing and well-documented argument that simplicity can be extracted from complexity.

Goodwin’s work is largely based on meta-analyses conducted at McREL. He combines those with other wellfounded research findings and then reduces all of this work into the five components of his “What Matters Most Framework.”

At the heart of the components are two guiding principles that he argues must be held in balance. One demands high expectations for performance at every level: students, teachers, leaders and districts. The other requires that strong support be provided at each of these levels. These principles are not to be applied as rules but rather serve as guides for determining courses of action.

Within each of the What Matters Most Framework components are two or three action items that Goodwin calls “touchstones.” These must be the focus of teachers, leaders and school systems.

While reducing all of the research available into 12 items may seem well beyond the possible, the groundwork Goodwin presents in each chapter is straight forward and compelling.

Reviewed by Jim Frenck, retired associate professor of teacher education, Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester, N.Y. 


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