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In this book, Tony Wagner analyzes the complex and often-painful process of undertaking meaningful school reform by examining the experiences of three representative but very different schools in Massachusetts as they attempted to implement significant programme changes during the early 1990s. All were chosen for his study because they were undertaking "systemic change", a process by which a school attempts sweeping changes in teaching methods, curriculum, and decision-making processes all at once. Rejecting as inadequate such traditional "objective" quantitative methods as looking at average test scores and dropout rates, Wagner chose instead to use a mix of qualitative research techniques - extensive observation of classes and of large and small group meetings, analysis of documents ranging from official publications to memoranda, and one-on-one interviews. He combines all of this into "in-depth portraits of three schools in the process of change". In the final chapter he offers his conclusion that there are three essential components to a successful school reform process - clear academic goals, core values, and collaboration - and describes how they could be implemented.
Tony Wagner is Co-Director of the recently created Change Leadership Group at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He also chairs the Harvard Seminar on Public Engagement and consults to numerous school districts and foundations, in the United States and internationally. He is currently senior consultant to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to assuming his current position at Harvard, Tony was a classroom teacher for twelve years, a school principal, a project director for the Public Agenda Foundation, a university professor in teacher education.