The Daily Disciplines of Leadership: How to Improve Student Achievement, Staff Motivation, and Personal Organization
reviewed by Steve Jenkins - July 17, 2007
Title: The Daily Disciplines of Leadership: How to Improve Student Achievement, Staff Motivation, and Personal Organization
Author(s): Douglas B. Reeves
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco
ISBN: 0787987670 , Pages: 272, Year: 2007
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As many school districts throughout the nation end the school year, school leaders are reviewing and responding to publicity surrounding student performance on high stakes tests. Those of us who have served as campus and district leaders know that accountability should not solely focus on high stakes tests. Reeves critical text will help every leader effectively create a campus community of learners with high expectations and instructional leadership with an emphasis on authentic assessment. Doug Reeves leadership prescriptions are timeless.
Reeves explains in his new preface to this text that Daily Disciplines are relevant today and are reinforced by large-scale research and numerous case studies (p. xiii). Six essential ideas have emerged from his research and prescriptions:
Leadership and management are inseparable;
Accountability is more than test scores;
Leadership leverage is the key to maximizing results in an era of higher expectations and limited resources;
Feedback is as important for adults as it is for students;
Students are not customers; and
The value of strategic planning lies not in nicely formatted documents, but in a focus on core values, clear strategies, and effective action plans.
The text extrapolates on these key ideas and provides leaders with insights and strategies to ensure stakeholders lead as scholar practitioners.
As someone involved in university based school leader preparation programs, I am continually searching for instructional strategies connecting leadership theory and practice. Reeves is critical of traditional university school administration programs urging districts to move to programs that blend real-world experience with academic reading and research and reflection among professional colleagues (p. 160). Our university-based West Texas Principal Center has attempted to integrate this blend, and Reeves provides practical activities that may be used for professional development and leadership preparation. Heres a sampling of one of the activities:
Using a blank small business card answer the question: What is the purpose of educational leadership? Reeves then shares declarations to this question from leadership experts (e.g., Warren Bennis, Margaret Wheatley, Peter Senge), and concludes with his insight, leaders are the architects of improved individual and organizational performance. The theme of individual and institutional leadership weaves itself throughout the text. In discussing why leadership matters, Reeves exclaims, The leader has the most direct impact on the models that he or she establishes in human relationship, time management, professional development, and a host of other areas. The value of leadership modeling far exceeds the impact of memos, seminars, and self-help books (p. 71).
Great leadership programs help model how to walk the talk.
Reeves provides teaching tools in the form of leadership keys and leadership reflections as bookends beginning and ending most of the chapters. In an Appendix full of leadership and assessment strategies, he provides tools that can be used by campus leaders to design, implement, evaluate, and revise on-going initiatives to improve student and staff performance.
Recently I read and reviewed another must read, Collateral Damage: How High Stakes Testing Corrupts Americas Schools by Sharon Nichols and David Berliner, and concluded that educational leaders must do everything in our power of persuasion to end this perversion of accountability, the reliance on high stakes test scores to measure the performance of our public schools. I have known school leaders obsessed with raising test scores, and some of them reference high stakes accountability gurus. Clearly these school leaders are not implementing the prescriptions that Reeves so artfully describes and illustrates in The Daily Disciplines of Leadership. Reeves accuses those school managers who will do anything to raise test scores of engaging in gamesmanship in which genuine student success is sacrificed on the altar of results (p. 14). Like Reeves, Nichols and Berliner (2007) strongly advocate that school leaders implement accountability measures that move us from assessment of learning to assessment for learning (p. 184).
Great leaders effectively examine the antecedents of excellence to test hypotheses. Reeves offers a variety of examples of these antecedents. The following provide some of the excellence declarations:
If attendance improves, student achievement improves.
If student nutrition improves, attention in class improves.
Or we may find thought-provoking questions of excellence, such as:
If we increase professional development funding, does it give teachers and administrators vital skills for improved performance, or does it merely take them out of the building and reduce their contact with their students?
If we increase our investment in technology, does it give students the skills they need in the twenty-first century, or amount to one more diversion from the academic essentials of the day?
The effective leaders responds to such declarations and questions stating, I dont know; lets gather some data so that we can better understand those relationships, test our preconceptions, and formulate some supportable answers (p. 15).
The Daily Disciplines of Leadership also creates standards of action, which Reeves states must be clear, transparent, and easy to understand (p. 121). The standards that Reeves holds out as examples of disciplined leadership are our [own] deep values. Great leaders do not say, I am trying to achieve Standard 34.2. . . Rather, there are deep values that rarely appear in administrative discussion, board minutes, a staff development agenda, or leadership memorandum (p. 176). These standards create a personal leadership credo . . . [and they] are worthy of our commitment of heart and mind (p. 177). Reeves then articulates his personal belief system, his credo that is summarized as a belief in the values of fairness, respect, and collaboration (p. 179).
In our university leadership program we encourage all candidates to take a course on Cultural Proficiency: Tools for Leaders, and Reeves emphasis on standards and accountability that promote growth for all remind me of a passage from Culturally Proficient Instruction on cultural proficiency standards:
Achievement by all learners is the underlying assumption for standards-based education. However, for all learners to be successful, instructors must know and understand how learners learn and develop, how learners differ in their approaches to learning, and how to develop learning opportunities that are adapted to diverse learners. (Robins et al. 2006, p. 40).
Doug Reeves The Daily Disciplines of Leadership should be added to the toolbox for preparing school leaders, especially as we encourage collaborative initiatives between universities and local school districts. In a time when policymakers are considering revisions to state and federal school accountability programs, this text will help readers move beyond high stakes testing and develop school systems where all stakeholders can and will achieve at their highest standards.
Reeves, D. (2006). The daily disciplines of leadership: How to improve student achievement, staff motivation, and personal organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Nichols, S. & Berliner, D. (2007). Collateral damage: How high-stakes testing corrupts Americas schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Robins, K., Lindsey, R., Lindsey, D., & Terrell, R. (2006). Culturally proficient instruction: A guide for people who teach, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.