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Volume 26, Number 4
July/August 2010

Building on What We Know

A retiring school administrator reflects on the conversations we ought to be having


25th Anniversary ImageDear Colleagues,

After 15 years at Evanston Township High School (ETHS), my sadness at leaving is lightened by the knowledge that the school is in the hands of remarkable administrators and teacher leaders. I am writing with the hope that my reflections on the last 25 years of my career as a public school administrator will support your work to transform ETHS. Some of what we do every day—helping a student whose mother died, building a partnership with a parent whose daughter is failing, updating the biology curriculum to reflect new knowledge—is similar to what good teachers and leaders have always done. In other ways our work is and must be fundamentally different.

The work is based on a new definition of the “good” high school. Twenty-five years ago Evanston Township High School exemplified the “good” school. “Goodness,” defined as “excellence,” was measured by the stellar achievements of a school’s most accomplished students. ETHS still meets this traditional standard of excellence: A high percentage of graduates go to prestigious colleges and have earned Intel honors, Scholastic Writing awards, and national rankings for math, debate, and science teams. Teachers have received Fulbrights, Grammy Awards, Golden Apples, and university honors.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Academic Youth Development. Charles A. Dana Center for Math and Science Education, University of Texas.

R.S. Barth. “Improving Relationships within the Schoolhouse.” Educational Leadership 63, no. 6 (2006): 8–13.

C.C. Burris and D.T. Garrity. Detracking for Excellence and Equity. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2008.

L. Darling-Hammond, R.C. Wei, A. Andree, N. Richardson, and S. Orphanos. Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad. Dallas, TX: National Staff Development Council, 2009.

The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools. McKinsey & Company, 2009. Available online at

Minority Student Achievement Network:

C.S. Dweck. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006.

G.E. Singleton and C. Linton. Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2006.

B.D. Tatum. Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2007.