Strategy in Action

Strategy in Action How School Systems Can Support Powerful Learning and Teaching

Rachel E. Curtis and Elizabeth A. City, foreword by Beverly L. Hall
Pub. Date: September 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-046-1
paper, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: September 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-934742-30-3
Price: $32.00

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How can we systemically improve the quality of classroom instruction and the learning and achievement of students? In an era when isolated examples of excellence are not good enough, we need systems that support improvement and excellence for all. This book describes how systems can effectively engage in this complex, challenging, and crucial work.


Curtis and City reveal the emperor without clothes when they conclude that too many educational systems have a ‘strategic plan without a strategy.’ Their insights give teachers, leaders, and policymakers long-overdue relief from the tyranny of planning processes that elevate the production of documents over meaningful progress in teaching and learning. The authors challenge the common enthusiasm for multiple initiatives and replace it with remarkable focus and impact. This is a wise and important book. — Douglas Reeves, chairman, The Leadership and Learning Center

This practical guide to developing and implementing system-level improvement strategies is a must-read for leadership teams committed to driving concrete results for all students. Through a blend of theory and real-world examples, City and Curtis draw a road map for spreading excellent teaching and learning across an entire school system. — Stacey M. Childress, lecturer, Harvard Business School

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About the Authors

Rachel E. Curtis works with school systems, foundations, higher education, and education policy organizations on district improvement strategy, leadership development, and efforts to make teaching a compelling and rewarding career. Her clients include The Aspen Institute, the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, the Executive Leadership Program for Educators at Harvard University, and a variety of traditional and charter school systems. Rachel worked for the Boston Public Schools for eleven years, during which time she devised the district’s instructional coaching model for literacy and math; developed a data-driven school planning process; founded the School Leadership Institute, which included the nationally recognized Boston Principal Fellowship; developed teaching standards and a new-teacher induction program; and oversaw professional development for teachers and school administrators. She holds a masters degree in Leadership and Organizational Development in the Context of School Reform from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her publications include The Skillful Leader II: Confronting Conditions That Undermine Learning (Ready About Press, 2008), Ensuring the Support and Development of New Teachers in the Boston Public Schools (Boston Public Schools, 2006), Preparing Non-Principal Administrators to Foster Whole-School Improvement in Boston (Boston Public Schools, 2005), Professional Development Spending in the Boston Public Schools (Boston Public Schools, 2005), and a forthcoming edited volume on human capital management in education (Harvard Education Press, 2010).

Elizabeth A. City helps educators improve learning and teaching through leadership development, the strategic use of data and resources, and instructional rounds networks. She is Director of Instructional Strategy at the Executive Leadership Program for Educators at Harvard University and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Liz has served as a teacher, an instructional coach, and a principal. She holds a doctorate in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her publications include Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning, coauthored with Richard F. Elmore, Sarah E. Fiarman, and Lee Teitel (Harvard Education Press, 2009); Resourceful Leadership: Tradeoffs and Tough Decisions on the Road to School Improvement (Harvard Education Press, 2008); The Teacher’s Guide to Leading Student-Centered Discussions: Talking About Texts in the Classroom, coauthored with Michael S. Hale (Corwin Press, 2006); and Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning, coedited with Kathryn Parker Boudett and Richard J. Murnane (Harvard Education Press, 2005).

Table of Contents (PDF)

E-book available through online booksellers

"The Real Race to the Top" in Harvard Education Letter


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