Thu | Aug 17, 2017

‘How truly successful is my school?’ - Educator seeks to 'Enhance School Leadership in Jamaica'

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2016 | 2:00 AM

Book Review delivered at the Launch of "School Self-Evaluation - Towards a Model to Enhance School Leadership in Jamaica".

Let us meet the author of the book "School Self-Evaluation - Towards a Model to Enhance School Leadership in Jamaica"

We all know Dr Maurice Smith, the school leader who directed school affairs within a specific and controlled setting, then the Education Officer who had to extend his boundaries across an entire region. Clearly, with an abhorrence for limitations, his impact extended across the national landscape and he served as specialist and technocrat, operating from Central Office. Geographical lines could not restrict him, and so his influence and contribution took on an international dimension. Driven by the desire to advance improvement at the leadership level, he moved into the realm of principal director of The National College for Educational Leadership. Now, as the Permanent Secretary, he is at the vantage point from which he can impact policies and guide processes in ensuring efficiency at various stages in education.

My initial reading of the manuscript left me classifying the work as an excellent piece of non-fictional work, but admittedly, the finished product is a true masterpiece.

The author is obviously a passionate educator who, at the very heart of his professional journey, aims to ensure that teachers, principals, and the management of schools engage in focused conversation about school development. He has, therefore, used a captivating style to advance his arguments, and so the reader is enthralled when he examines the rudiments of school self-evaluation, providing the requisite tools and approaches to ensure capacity building in schools. This literature can aptly be described as a compass for evaluating and collaborating, to ensure excellent outcomes for schools as educators seek to assess, evaluate, and improve.

The levels of success we achieve in school leadership is all about distance. The distance between head and heart. Head rationalising, conceptualising and analysing. Heart - collaborating, sensitising, interacting, coaching, and modelling. This book straddles both head and heart creating a perfect balance. We are taken along a pathway of data collection, underpinned by empirical and anecdotal evidence.

This publication provides a framework for school self-evaluation as a model to enhance and improve school leadership. The writer has grasped the opportunity to proffer all his arguments with a supporting theoretical framework, substantiated by relevant ministry of education data and data from international sources, giving this work global appeal. The inclusion of leadership theories and international best practices makes it an important companion for all persons involved in school leadership. It allows for each leader to look at the man in the mirror through the inclusion of the chapter on 'self-evaluation', clearly discussed on page 81. The writer successfully empowers each school community to affirm good practices, to identify areas that need modification or improvements, thereby taking ownership of their own development and improvement.

It compels school leaders to ask: 'How truly successful is my school?" and then to ponder "How do I determine this?" and then to determine 'What do we need to do now to improve?" This professional guide certainly empowers educators to recognise the uniqueness of their setting and to determine their route to ensuring improvement in the academic, cultural, social, and personal context.

Adherence to the guidelines offered in this book will ensure compliance with the established standards of the National Education Inspectorate. We are not left to grope in the dark because we are provided with the sample self-evaluation tools to enable leaders to gather the requisite evidence.

This writer not only explores the historical context of Jamaica's education system, and traces education transformation in Jamaica, but he provides an all-embracing understanding of how schools are organised; while providing a definition of stakeholders and giving very lucid role definitions. In speaking of effective schools on page 14, he carefully erases the likelihood of ambiguity, by outlining the tenets of an effective school, as being one in which great emphasis is placed on student learning, collaboration, and accountability.

The structure of the book ignites in educators a recognition of and appreciation for the importance of school self-evaluation.

The book deliberately and logically flows through three sections. Section one explores the theories and data which inform the model. This transcends the regurgitation of facts but clearly serves as a deliberate approach to inform the readers leading them into the realm of reflection and yes introspection. Added to the fact that the information is relevant to the target readership, it is presented in such an appealing way that the writer breaks down the stereotypical attitudes of readers to theories and data.

Section two examines the developmental stages of the model. This is a novel way of seducing the reader into embracing the concept of school self-evaluation, its purpose, structure, and long-term benefits. When the author gets to section three, the school leader is eager to get involved in the process and so the master artist moves into fine tuning the creation. It is by design that section three - unlike section one with five chapters, and section two with three - has only one chapter. So section three naturally explores the model in practise.

This sensitive author has clearly given consideration to the reality that there are persons who are not keen on devoting large blocks of time to a cover-to-cover read of a non-fictional work in one sitting. Therefore, this expert writer has structured the sections and chapters so that each stands alone, and every time the reader opens the book to a new chapter or section, there is new discovery, and the content is so impactful that it not forgotten.

I have read other studies in school self-evaluation and, I must confess that I found myself comparing it with these works, and I must admit that this book compares favourably to them.

The appeal of this book is far-reaching and should interest the following groups:

Students doing NCEL courses.

Students doing studies in educational leadership.

High-school principals .

There is a large body of principals at the primary, infant and preparatory school levels who may not yet accept that the work is relevant to their constituency, this should be a part of their tool kit.

Specialists and technocrats in education.

It can also be used in all courses which focus on leadership or self-assessment as a pathway to creating 'top-performing schools.

And most definitely by quasi-educational entities such as private, corporate, and public companies with training divisions.

The book launch took place at the Courtleigh Hotel on January 27.

Mrs. Reid is the principal of Holland High School in Trelawny.