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Working on the Work
by Phillip Schlechty ($25.00)

If student performance is to be improved, says Phillip Schlechty, there are at least three ways to approach the problem: 1) work on the students, 2) work on the teachers, or 3) work on the work. Unfortunately, the first two have thus far produced unimpressive results. The key to improving education, Schlechty believes, lies in the third alternative: to provide better quality work for students-work that is engaging and that enables students to learn what they need in order to succeed in the world.

In this practical companion to the author's popular books Shaking Up the Schoolhouse and Inventing Better Schools, Schlechty, one of America's most renowned school reformers, presents the Working on the Work (WOW) framework—an outline for improving student performance by improving the quality of schoolwork. Field-tested in schools across the country, the WOW framework describes the twelve essential components of a WOW school and suggests ways to improve the quality of content, organization of knowledge, measurement of achievement, nurturance of creativity, and novelty and variety of tasks. Schlechty offers practical guidelines for redesigning classroom activity so that more students are highly engaged in schoolwork, developing clear and compelling standards for assessing student work, and making clear connections between what students are doing and what they are expected to produce. He also discusses the roles of teachers, principals, and superintendents-and how they individually and collectively play a part in the WOW process.

The book's appendixes include useful questionnaires that will facilitate discussion, analysis, and action planning at both school and classroom levels. Superintendents can use these tools to help principals and teachers to create a vision of schools where all students are engaged in important work. Principals can assess how well their schools are serving their students. And teachers can use the questionnaires to better understand what is really going on in their classrooms and what actions are likely to increase the authentic engagement of students.


"Authentic student engagement in meaningful classroom work is the key to accountability. If teachers work-on-the-work, accountability will take care of itself. Thanks, Phil Schlecthy, for illuminating the way for all concerned educators and parents."

Lawrence W. Lezotte educational consultant
and commentator, and author,
Learning for All,
The Effective Schools Process

"Schlechty takes everything he knows about education, places it in a user-friendly format, and delivers it to the schoolhouse. This book is such a valuable tool that I plan to discuss it, line by line, with my teachers."

Judy Love, principal
Hayden Elementary School, Hayden, Indiana

"Any teacher who is interested in providing an authentically engaging classroom should embrace and utilize Phil Schlechty's WOW philosophy. It is an invaluable guide for teachers to become leaders and designers of quality lessons that facilitate student engagement and success."

Kristin Barton, teacher
Gardenhill Elementary, La Mirada, CA

"Once again Dr. Schlechty provides a must-read to the professional educator who is serious about improving and sustaining public education in our country."

Ann Denlinger, superintendent
Durham Public Schools, Chapel Hill, NC



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