My immediate response when I was first asked if I would like to review the new book Renewal: Remaking America’s Schools for the Twenty-First Century by Harold Kwalasser was a resounding “No!” The last thing I wanted to do was jump on the teacher bashing bus which is what I incorrectly assumed Renewal was all about. After all, that’s all you hear from the media these days, stories about how teachers are lazy and have single handedly caused the downfall of the American educational system. But when I looked a little more closely and watched the video above I realized that Mr. Kwalasser is not a teacher basher at all, he is an answer seeker.
The problem in public education is not the students. It is the adults.
If you’re looking for a feel good beach read this is not the book for you. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Evanovich fan – of the books, NOT the movie. I love to kick back and enjoy the latest Stephanie Plum antics surfside. If you are looking for a powerful read that will answer some of your biggest questions about the American educational system, how it got where it is today, and where it is headed then Renewal is the book for you. I think as educators we owe it to our profession to be well versed in the system in which we work instead of being just cogs in the machine.
This book is not about Republicans vs. Democrats or vice-versa. Mr. Kwalwasser has studied what great schools do differently and how they achieved their success. He has studied every aspect of those systems including the superintendents, the principals, and the teachers. Don’t worry, there is no finger pointing, only answers to many of the hot button issues in education today.
I often hear from teachers in California who are frustrated with the implementation of heavily scripted, boring curricula that doesn’t allow for any differentiation or “fun” in the classroom. I was surprised to find the answer to why this happens more in California than any other state on page 17 of Renewal and it made perfect sense. Often just knowing the “why” behind something can help ease the feeling of being powerless in a broken bureaucratic system.
Another topic that comes up often these days is the implementation of a practice called PLC (Professional Learning Communities.) Mr. Kwalwasser not only explains the reasons behind why PLCs are being implemented nationwide but also the dangers of implementing them poorly. Often the intention is good but if the implementation is faulty then it just becomes another “thing” teachers have to endure that takes more time away from classroom instruction and prep.
In Renewal Mr. Kwalwasser also takes a closer look at some of the hot button issues in education today such as:
- Teacher Retention
- Teacher Evaluation
- Teacher Motivation
What I liked most about Renewal is that the author actually took the time to tour the country and talk to people in the trenches to find out what is working and what isn’t. Renewal is the perfect book for anybody who wants to learn more about the current educational crisis and seeks to be a part of the solution.