In the twenty years that I have been writing about schools and education, the national conversation has gone from complacent to near-frantic. Critiques of public education have reached such a feverish pitch that a casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that no one really knows how to run good schools. And yet, all over the country are schools with large populations of students of color and students from low-income families that are helping just about all kids achieve. The educators in those schools have figured out how to ensure that all the systems in their schools line up to support teaching and learning.
In my last book, Schools That Succeed: How Educators Marshal the Power of Systems for Improvement (2019) I explored what it looks like when expert school leaders ensure that all of a school's systems, from supplies and schedules to discipline systems, are designed to support instruction. Schools that Succeed builds on the previous trilogy of "It's Being Done" books (more about them below) but digs deeper to help educators see how they can move forward, even in dismaying circumstances.
In my newest book, Districts That Succeed: Breaking the Correlation Between Race, Poverty, and Achievement (2021), I broaden the lens to look not only at schools but at the ecosystem in which schools live--school districts. Using the data analysis of Sean Reardon, professor of poverty and opportunity at Stanford University (edopportunity.org) and state data reporting, I identified five districts that are high-performing or improving and that serve children of color and children from low-income backgrounds. I visited them and interviewed the superintendents, principals, teachers, students, school board members, and parents. The first iteration of the work was a podcast, ExtraOrdinary Districts. When the pandemic hit, I went into isolation and wrote the manuscript for Districts that Succeed.
As I wrote in the conclusion, "The districts I have profiled in this book provide clear arguments against the idea that public schools are incapable of improvement and excellence. They demonstrate that our future fellow citizens--children from all backgrounds--are capable of getting smarter and that the efforts of ordinary educators, when marshaled together, can help them do so."
What People Are Saying
Noted scholar Charles M. Payne:
"For those concerned with educational inequality, perhaps no question is more important right now than understanding why some schools and districts do much better with vulnerable students than others. This book confirms Karin Chenoweth’s place at the front of that conversation. People who are still not convinced that schools can change lives need to read this book."
President of University of Maryland Baltimore County Freeman A. Hrabowski III: "In this timely and important book, Karin Chenoweth takes a broad look at America's public education system and shows us how the leaders of successful school districts create and maintain the conditions in which students are most likely to thrive. Through examples that reflect the country's diversity and it's many challenges, she elicits key lessons and inspires us with a sense of what is possible."
University of Illinois at Chicago Distinguished professor emeritus Timothy Shanahan: "Districts That Succeed provides valuable exemplars of school districts that have beaten the odds, raising academic achievement of children who supposedly can't learn effectively. Karin Chenoweth provides clear descriptions of these cases and masterfully reveals what it is that district leaders must do to put their schools on track for sucess."
Delaware Secretary of Education Susan S. Bunting: "Inspirational yet practical, Karin Chenoweth's latest book reflects lessons gleaned from the field that debunk a relationship between background and achievement. A must read, Districts That Succeed highlights an award-winning recipe for quality learning experiences that yield both academic and social/emotional success for all students."
From 2007 to 2011 I wrote two books and co-wrote a third to create a trilogy of books about high-performing and rapidly improving schools that serve large populations of students from low-income families and students of color. These books identified key characteristics of these schools, their practices, and their leadership. In addition, I have written a slew of articles and spoken before tens of thousands of people.
In this web site, you will learn about the trilogy of "It's Being Done" books and some of my other work. I hope you find the information interesting and helpful. And be sure to check out my Huffington Post column while you're at it (Link is in the column on the left.)