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Bye Bye, Little Red Schoolhouse: The Changing Face of Public Education in the 21st Century

by Justin A. Collins, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., 2014, 157 pp., $25.95 softcover

In Bye Bye, Little Red Schoolhouse, Justin Collins provides a clear and compelling proposal in response to the failed public school reform movement. His remedy requires unfaltering leadership and a long-term commitment to what he identifies as the most fundamental elements for reform.His response demonstrates how social development and technology have left schools decades behind. He is not pessimistic, but he is disturbingly rational and realistic. He argues convincingly that public education will fall further behind if the current reform efforts continue.

Collins’ message is clear: Reform is possible, but it requires bold initiative and a focused and well-executed leadership plan. The key component is enabling teachers to execute highly engaging instruction. He argues convincingly that teachers consistently respond well when their leaders, particularly principals, are dedicated to the improvement of instruction.

Collins stresses that the key element in school reform is the degree to which instruction engages students in higher-order critical thinking skills. He argues that regular assessment of the level of engagement across a school’s classrooms will provide teachers with the data that will further promote student engagement. He cites research indicating that student engagement directly relates to improved student test scores. He specifically proposes the use of the Instructional Practices Inventory.

Collins traces technology’s incredible growth, stressing that the failure to incorporate technology as a means to enhance instruction has allowed the gap to grow even further between high expectations for public school students and their continued low performance. Collins is adamant that any attempt to catch up will be fruitless unless the school reform effort treats technology as an essential tool in the learning process.

In convincing detail, he argues that instruction must respect and build on the information and technology manipulation skills students bring to the classroom. Students must be able to manage the vast and unlimited information at their fingertips with higher-order decision-making skills. Reform will be realized only when every effort is made to maximize the learner’s engagement both in and beyond the classroom.

Collins provides a comprehensive, detailed prescription for the ailing school reform movement. His approach is supported by examples of successful reform, illustrating the close attention that must be paid to inform and empower teachers via instructionally focused leadership.

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


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