.Nameplate February 2013 Issue
Book Review                                    Online Exclusive


Curing Student


Clinical Practice for School Leaders

by Philip Esbrandt and Bruce Hayes, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., 2011, 220 pp. with index, $75 hardcover, $36.95 softcover

Book Curing Student Underachievement

The fundamental premise of this approach to eliminating student underachievement is that educators ought to emulate the medical model of clinical practice. This is not an overnight cure. Rather, it can take decades to get right as real causes of problems must be discovered, various treatments documented and tried until effective means are identified, which then are shared for replication and verification. In 1899 the first Merck Manual was published, which moved medicine from an inexact art to a science. Education needs something similar which is what these authors are pursuing.

The authors of Curing Student Underachievement: Clinical Practice for School Leaders, both experienced former superintendents and consultants, claim that education lacks procedures and documentation based upon examined experience. Consequently, the field of education compares to the state of medicine in the 1800s. Educators also lack the knowledge to evaluate which of the existing remedies has the greatest potential to work in any particular circumstance.

The proposed methodology involves highly trained educators utilizing standardized protocols with the collection and analysis of data. The process is one of diagnosis, prescription, prognosis, application, assessment, evaluation and revision. The overall goal is to determine the most appropriate course of action with the best chance of resolving the unique problem(s) at hand.

The traditional school district organization is particularly at fault, thus a new paradigm is required. Even when one of the boxes on the organizational chart is effective, there is generally limited understanding of how all the functions within other boxes affect each other. Instead, the authors offer 17 critical performance categories: (1) alignment of work processes, (2) business/financial acumen, etc., for everyone in the district to address.

Their clinical practice model has a comprehensive process with a set of protocols for each stage. There is an entirely new set of definitions to learn and corresponding acronyms such as CPC (critical performance categories), SDF (school district functions) or VSPI (vital sign performance indicators), SPCD (school performance coordinating team), etc. with the acronyms being used throughout after the first instruction. Consequently, following the text is a bit difficult even if the framework is logical.

This book has a sound theory. The writing, except for all the new definitions, is straightforward. The numerous charts require a magnifying glass to read. It would take a very serious administrator to implement this concept without one of the authors as a guide. It does, however, point out how woefully inadequate the current educational methodology is and how far it needs to go to be a science.

Reviewed by Art Stellar, educational consultant, Hingham, Mass.


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