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Educational Management Turned on Its Head: Exploring a Professional Ethic for Educational Leadership

reviewed by Marla Susman Israel - November 14, 2014

coverTitle: Educational Management Turned on Its Head: Exploring a Professional Ethic for Educational Leadership
Author(s): William C. Frick (Ed)
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433115786, Pages: 257, Year: 2013
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William Frick, as editor and contributor of Educational Management Turned on Its Head: Exploring a Professional Ethic for Educational Leadership, has created a multi-layered text that is simultaneously instructive and generative in its ability to inform and transform students of educational leadership, active practitioners in principal and superintendent positions, and professors within the field. Dr. Frick, quoting Robert Marzano during his Brock Prize acceptance speech (April 5, 2008), declares: “Education is so important and fundamental that the profession should have an oath,” and the reader cannot help but be drawn into the book.

The text is divided into four sections: (a) the conceptualization of a professional ethic for school leadership; (b) critical essays related to student’s best interests construct; (c) selected research on a professional ethic for education; and (d) applying an ethic of the profession to contemporary and relevant issues of practice. Each section references Shapiro and Stefkovich’s ideas about multiple ethical paradigms (Chapter 1) as the foundation for critical reflection about ethical dilemmas within education, and educational leadership specifically. This provides a path for uncovering the inherent tensions between the lenses of justice, care, critique, and community; it impels the professional to ask: What does the profession (or the moral ideal of the professional) ask me to do? In particular, as an educational leader, what does the profession ask me to do in the best interests of the student? From this vantage point, the essays guide the reader though the concepts of students’ rights, responsibility, and respect, and define each student who enters public education as a person of worth.

Each chapter asks the educational leader the following:

1. What rights, laws and policies guide my work? If there is none, should there be one?

2. Who is the cared for and what does the cared for need?

3. Whose voices are silenced?

4. What is expected of me from the community?

5. What particular professional obligations (standards and codes) are required of me?

6. How do my personal beliefs and past experiences inform my moral obligations?

7. When all of this is considered, what then is in the “best interests of the students?”

8. When considering the “best interests of the student” how does one define student’s rights, responsibilities, and the respect due to each student that is “good enough for a child you love” (Kirp, 2011, p. 8).

By continually reiterating these questions, the reader is provided with the scaffolding necessary to articulate his/her own answers. The text’s repetitive structure is a necessary teaching and literary element, creating a habit of mind within the reader to always put the child’s needs at the core of each decision. The demand for this text’s pedagogy is highlighted in the chapters on research of a professional ethic for education. Within these studies, the participants speak of the gut and experience as guiding their understanding of what the best interest of the student actually means. “Principals, when affirming the phrase ‘the best interests of the student’ as a rule in decision making, or high-priority consideration when making choices, made reference to the language as if it were the ‘bottom line’ for them or an achievable ideal when balanced with a variety of other considerations” (p. 141). If Frick’s research participants were now asked to read his book, might they be able to articulate clearly the how and why of their professional practice with ethical clarity and moral purpose? For ethical clarity and moral purpose is the critical next step for all of our educational administrators if the profession is going to be heard and respected by students, parents, community members, and policy makers, and if the conversation is to be elevated beyond compliance and accountably.

Additionally, Frick does not shy away from including his own research. The question concerning the best interests of one student versus multiple students forms the basis of Frick’s and Frick & Gutierrez’s work (Chapter 9). What are the competing demands of one child versus the many children when examining zero tolerance gun policies in schools? What are the competing demands of one child versus the many children when examining high stake testing to ensure that no child is left behind? What are the competing demands of one child versus the many children when examining undocumented children attending public schools with limited resources?

These ideas are not easy to write about or to comprehend fully as a reader. Frick has done an outstanding job in choosing and sequencing chapters that contribute to each other through repetition and expansion. This is an edited volume whose chapters each stand alone as important literature to inform the field of educational leadership practice and research. However, the magic of this edited volume is that the whole is greater than the sum of each part. As a professor of educational leadership ethics, who is charged with educating the next generation of educational leaders, I will use this book as an anchor text with my doctoral students. I can imagine hearing my students wrestling with these questions. I can picture each class session building upon another with the conversations becoming more complex and nuanced as the semester unfolds. More importantly, I can envision my students—aspiring and practicing educational leaders—learning to reflect deeply and articulate clearly their decision-making processes to do the vital work of educating all of our children to be productive, contributing members at home and abroad. Today’s world demands nothing less.


Kirp, D. (2011).  Kids first: Five big ideas for transforming children’s lives. New York: Public Affairs.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 14, 2014
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17754, Date Accessed: 10/27/2021 7:20:48 PM

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About the Author
  • Marla Susman Israel
    Loyola University
    E-mail Author
    MARLA SUSMAN, PhD, is an associate professor in educational leadership in the School of Education at Loyola University Chicago. Dr. Israel holds an Ed.D. in educational administration and supervision from the University of Illinois. She received her MS in curriculum & instruction from Indiana University and her BS in elementary education from the University of Illinois.
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