What the Academy Taught Us: Improving Schools from the Bottom-Up in a Top-Down Transformation Era
Early in the 2000s, a high-school principal in Minnesota, Dr. Bob Perdaems, faced a complex challenge. The demographics of his school were shifting, political tensions in the surrounding communities were rising, and, thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act's new testing and accountability requirements, his school's performance was soon to be scrutinized more intensely and more publicly than ever before. While he had several visions of how his school could continuously improve through these realities, however, he had no additional budget to bring his ideas to life.Undaunted, Dr. Bob set to creating school improvements the best way he knew how--and that, of course, he could afford: he prioritized his school's areas for growth, found teachers who would lend minds and hands, and gathered them to look at the blueprints. What the Academy Taught Us is a book about the collaborative school-improvement culture Dr. Bob created in his Minnesota high school: the principles that initiated it, the collective effort that kept it running, and the lasting effects it had on its teachers and students. The book also brilliantly explores how bottom-up approaches like Dr. Bob's fare in the current era, which seeks to transform schools through more top-down and 'disruptive' means. Ultimately, What the Academy Taught Us offers today's educators a way forward. While largely viewing the difficult work of school improvement through the prism of a single school, it presents abundant recommendations about how schools everywhere can build effective and continuous improvement from the bottom up.
Eric Kalenze's career in education has included posts in teaching, coaching, administration, and consulting. He is the author of 2014's 'Education Is Upside-Down: Reframing Reform to Focus on the Right Problems', and he regularly contributes pieces about education practice, research, and reform to publications like Education Week, Education Post, The Hechinger Report, and TES US, as well as to his blog, 'A Total Ed Case'. He is based in Minnesota's Twin Cities metro area.)