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Leverage Leadership 

A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools   

by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif., 2012, 356 pp., $32.95 hardcover


We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools, underscores this message perfectly, and author Paul Bambrick-Santoyo provides educational leaders with the framework to develop the habits necessary to build high-performing schools.

This book will guide readers in reframing or refining their instructional paradigm, with a central focus on how to strategically use time and leverage leadership to ensure great teaching and guarantee great learning.

Bambrick-Santoyo, the managing director of Uncommon Schools, a group that starts and manages urban charters schools that prepare low-income students for college, provides narratives, worksheets, tables, action plans, activities and diagrams that focus on the people who every day transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

This action planning model would be most useful and best implemented at the building level. However, superintendents who strive to build high-performing teams can develop systems based on Bambrick-Santoyo’s seven levers of leadership in order to support their instructional leaders as they implement sustainable change. These seven levers are both instructional and cultural in nature, and include data-driven instruction, observation and feedback, instructional planning and professional development, as well as a focus on student culture, staff culture and managing school leadership teams.

The narratives create a sense of urgency for improvement, as students cannot wait for long-term growth. Readers striving for a culture of excellence can build one by practicing repeatedly and creating the structures outlined in the book’s companion DVD, which includes video clips of leaders discussing their understanding of the seven levers of leadership. Although the DVD may be viewed as cumbersome technology in our world of e-books and publications, the narratives are rich in purpose and will provide school and district-level leadership with all the necessary foundations for creating a culture of excellence.

Reviewed by Barbara A. Klocko, assistant professor, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.


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