Failure Is Not an Option: Six Principles That Guide Student Achievement in High-Performing Schools

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"Failure Is Not an Option is a deeply passionate call to arms, combined with the wherewithal to take systematic, continuous, and effective action. A must read for all those interested in reform because it is simultaneously inspiring and practical."
From the Foreword by Michael Fullan, Dean
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

"This is a practical, well formatted book that is intellectually solid, emotionally inspiring, and practically accessible."
Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education
Lynch School of Education, Boston College

"Both inspirational and eminently practical, Failure Is Not an Option can serve as a handbook for both strategic planning and classroom-by-classroom reworking. Any administrator who truly wishes to change his or her school can use this book as a manual from which to design every aspect of the change process."
Robert W. Cole, Educational writer and consultant
Louisville, KY

"This book speaks to the spark of caring, generosity, and greatness in every child and provides caring adults with ideas and tools to unleash this potential. It leaves no part of the child behind, and leaves no adult on the sidelines."
Maurice J. Elias, Professor of Psychology
Rutgers University, New Jersey

The powerful new guide to creating successful and sustainable professional learning communities!

Building on a foundation that identifies courageous school leadership and the professional learning community as the center of effective school reform, this powerful newbook by Alan M. Blankstein offers six guiding principles for creating and sustaining high-performing schools:

1. Common mission, vision, values, and goals

2. Systems for prevention and intervention

3. Collaborative teaming for teaching and learning

4. Data driven decision making and continuous improvement

5. Active engagement from family and community

6. Building sustainable leadership capacity

Covering theory into practice, applications that include case studies and vignettes, and techniques for addressing difficult issues, the book also provides valuable dual perspectives on the critical issues: how implementation looks when it's done right as well as when things go wrong. Failure Is Not an Option is sure to be the state-of-the-art resource that school leaders reach for when, in Michael Fullan's words, they need "practical applications to perplexing problems."


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412909334
  • Publisher: Corwin Press
  • Publication date: 6/23/2004
  • Pages: 292
  • Product dimensions: 4.48 (w) x 9.76 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan M. Blankstein is Founder and President of the HOPE Foundation, a not-for-profit organization whose Honorary Chair is Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The HOPE Foundation (Harnessing Optimism and Potential through Education) is dedicated to supporting educational leaders over time in creating school cultures where failure is not an option for any student. HOPE has a decade-long track record of sustaining student success in districts throughout North America.

The HOPE Foundation launched the professional learning communities movement in educational circles, first by bringing W. Edwards Deming and his work to light in a series of Shaping America's Future forums and PBS video conferences from 1988 -- 1992. Now, The HOPE Foundation provides some 20 conferences annually as well as long-term support for thousands of educational leaders throughout North America and other parts of the world through leadership academies and intensive on-site school change efforts.

A former "high risk" youth, Alan began his career in education as a music teacher and has worked in youth-serving organizations since 1983, including the March of Dimes, Phi Delta Kappa, and the National Educational Service (now Solution Tree) which he founded in 1987 and directed for 12 years.

Alan is author of the best-selling book Failure Is Not an Option™: Six Principles That Guide Student Achievement in High-Performing Schools, which has been awarded"Book of the Year" by the National Staff Development Council. Currently, Alan is Senior Editor along with Paul Houston of the eight-volume The Soul of Educational Leadership series. Alan also co-authored the Reaching Today's Youth curriculum with Rick Dufour and has published articles in Educational Leadership, The School Administrator, Executive Educator, High School Magazine, Reaching Today's Youth, and Inside the Workshop. Alan has also provided keynote presentations and workshops for virtually every major educational organization.

Alan is on the Harvard International Principals Centers advisory board, served as Board member for Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, is Co-Chair of Indiana University's Neal Marshall Black Culture Center's Community Network and advisor to the Faculty and Staff for Student Excellence (FASE) mentoring program. He is also an advisory board member for the Forum on Race, Equity, and Human Understanding with the Monroe County Schools in Indiana, and served on the Board of Trustees for the Jewish Child Care Agency (JCCA), in which he was once a youth in residence.

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Table of Contents

1 Why failure is not an option 1
2 Courageous leadership for school success 13
3 Ten common routes to failure, and how to avoid each 31
4 Building a professional learning community with relational trust 49
5 Principle #1 - common mission, vision, values, and goals 65
6 Principle #2 - ensuring achievement for all students : systems for prevention and intervention 97
7 Principle #3 - collaborative teaming focused on teaching and learning 127
8 Principle #4 - using data to guide decision making and continuous improvement 141
9 Principle #5 - gaining active engagement from family and community 167
10 Principle #6 - building sustainable leadership capacity 189
App. A Self-assessment 215
App. B Strategies for making time 219
App. C Strategies for dealing with resistance 221
App. D Running river elementary school mission statement 223
App. E Development process for mission, vision, values, and goals 225
App. F Worksheet for developing a student improvement plan 235
App. G Developing a system of prevention and intervention 237
App. H Pyramid of interventions as used in Hartford, Connecticut 239
App. I Faith, hope, and intervention 245
App. J Teacher-principal trust item 257
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2007

    A reviewer

    Failure is Not an Option provided the foundation for the courageous conversations that needed to take place pertaining to the six principles. To our surprise, we were using many of these positive strategies and techniques. But after reading the book, we discovered by categorizing these strategies into the six principles it helped us focus our direction to achieving student academic success. The ¿Think it Throughs¿ initiated the conversations and provided opportunities to reflect on the principles. Further reading gave us ideas on how to develop each principle in our building. ¿It not only begins with the end in mind, but it also requires a resounding commitment to the end.¿ Specifically, this book was a great resource in our quest to find our shared mission, vision and values. It provided the critical questions that outline what effective vision, mission, and values should answer. It included easy-to-read tables that offered criteria to transform the traditional statements and make them meaningful and purpose driven. Failure is Not an Option also presented SMART goals, a way of writing effective specific measurable goals. Once our staff understood the goals we were able to celebrate successes. The book gave guidelines on how to celebrate which in turn motivated our staff and students. We found this book imperative in planning professional development for our staff. After reading this book, we do not see how a school could function without the six principles outlined in Failure is Not an Option.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2007

    Your Keys to School Reform

    This must read book, Failure is Not an Option, should be on every teacher's and school administrator's bookshelf. Not only does Dr. Blankstein point out common routes to failure (so that we can stop using those routes) but he also presents a clear path to school reform. School boards, administrators, and teachers can no longer allow the 'old' status quo to continue. The world has changed and become much more fluid. Education must also change with the world. Educators must be prepared to assess their own effectiveness and make changes that will benefit ALL students. Failure is Not an Option is THE tool for making these necessary changes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2007

    The Six Guiding Principles Really Work!

    The information presented in this book is a sequential process that can be implemented over time to produce the desired results. This book is not an overnight 'cure-all' for the ills of low performing schools, but rather, it gives schools a definite process beginning with establishing a clear vision of what is needed or desired. The six guiding principles are presented in a clear easy to follow manner that make sense. The six principles could very well be called the six-steps program for under-achieving schools!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2007


    The National Staff Development Council named this book of the year in 2005. An outstanding book about processes that work! This book will support educational leaders over time in creating school cultures in which all students succeed, especially underserved students. This book has very common sense research based approaches for creating and sustaining high performing schools!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2006

    Impractical and Unrealistic

    I have served in public schools in New Hampshire, Wyomimg, Connecticut and Massachusetts for over forty years. During the course of a lifetime of work in these schools I have attended hundreds of educational workshops and read many books and articles dealing with public school eduation, some good, some not so good. Speaking specifically about this book I grant that the authors are probably very learned individuals. On the other hand if they truly believe what they put in print in this book is practical and realistic in a public school setting even one per-cent of the time they either are living a dream or living in a world of fantasy. Ninety-nine per-cent of the administrators who read this book and try to put into practice what he/she sees in print can look forward to a short tenure in his/her district. The point is not that the authors don't bring out a few good ideas, the point is that they are utopian ideas and we don't live in a utopian society. Public education in our country is considrably better than the liberal press and government would make you believe. Public education, different from independent school education has to try to educate every student who steps off the bus regardless of what his/her background might be. Independent schools educate only those they need or want to while at the same time enjoying the benefit of much more funding than that which is appropriated for the public schools. This book therefore might be more appropriate for the independent school but this in no way infers that an independent school education is superior to a public school education. This is parallel to the person who put an old stove out in front of the house with a sign that read, FREE. No one took it but when the signed was changed to $50. the stove was gone the next day. In my many reviews of books I have written for Barnes and Noble I have never given a book a rating of below four stars. This book I am giving a rating of two stars, 'Disappointing', only because I don't believe in failure.

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    Posted May 31, 2009

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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