Book Review

Leading for Equity

The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools

by Stacey Childress, Denis Doyle and David Thomas, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2009, 184 pp. with index, $26.95 softcover

National leaders most concerned with urban schools’ needs, such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and AFT President Randi Weingarten, responded immediately and positively to this Harvard Business School study of a supposedly suburban school district’s decade of results-producing improvements. They also saw it offering lessons for all districts, which suggests the behavior of the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland doesn’t fit the theories of what school systems are supposed to do.

Leading for Equity

Essentially, the purpose of Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools is to share the story of this complex district’s inside-out transformation for those seeking the missing dimension of educational reform — what works systemically and how. The book accomplishes this because the authors brought along a different way of thinking about schools as organizations, and had a unique opportunity to apply it to a study of systemwide practice over 10 years in a major, fully functioning school district.

While observers usually focus on the what’s and how’s, this work benchmarks the essential why’s that undergird the district’s way of thinking. The authors also explore the roles a superintendent can play as shaper of others’ thinking.

The authors focus on six core themes and identify integral lessons that other school districts can glean from Montgomery County about severing the seemingly unbreakable links between race, class and academic achievement.

Leading for Equity presents the story of a district that has been closing the gap between methods and mindset.

Reviewed by Lewis A. Rhodes, consultant, Sabu Inc., Silver Spring, Md.