Book Reviews

Bringing the District Back In: The Role of the Central Office in Instruction and Achievement

by Martha Abele Mac Iver and Elizabeth Farley-Ripple, Educational Research Service, Alexandria, Va., 2008, 117 pp. with index, $28 softcover

Bringing the District Back In: The Role of the Central Office in Instruction and Achievement is a quick yet immensely valuable read, a highly engaging review of literature with meaningful findings for superintendents and central-office personnel associated with curriculum and instruction.

In addition to distilling various studies from a wide body of education literature, Martha Mac Iver, an associate research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University, and Elizabeth Farley-Ripple, a doctoral student in educational policy at University of Pennsylvania, provide more than 30 pages of references.

Their book describes central-office roles in improving instruction, citing notable experts in the field. Each chapter provides a concise summary of the research findings. The final chapter discusses practical implications for school districts and includes a helpful chart to assist a central-office administrator in evaluating district-level functions related to curriculum, instruction and assessment.

As instructional leaders, effective principals support teachers to better plan, deliver and monitor instruction for students.

An effective central office has two crucial roles: (1) responsive service to principals in ways that support site-based implementation efforts and (2) organization for unifying and steering goals for improvement. This book underscores the importance of both functions with education research findings and provides both prescriptive and diagnostic frameworks for a central office to effect higher achievement by students.

Reviewed by Marilyn H. King, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, Bozeman Public Schools, Bozeman, Mont.