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Society for Quality Education

Books in our Library

SQE has an extensive library, and most of the materials cited here are available for borrowing free of charge. Contact Malkin Dare at mdare@sympatico or call 519-884-3166.

The Schools We Need: Why We Don’t Have Them

The Schools We Need: Why We Don't Have Them. E. D. Hirsch, Jr. The author takes on what he terms "The Thoughtworld," the system of child-centred ideas which dominate Canadian and American elementary education. His "Critical Guide to Educational Terms and Phrases" alone is worth the cost of the book.

All Must Have Prizes

All Must Have Prizes. Melanie Phillips. The author charts the rocky course of educational reform in England, a journey which began in 1988 with the passage of the Education Reform Act.

Break These Chains: The Battle for School Choice

Break These Chains: The Battle for School Choice. Daniel McGroarty. Empowering parents through school choice is the future of quality education. McGroarty's street-level account of America's first-ever voucher program captures the story perfectly - both the policy and the passion.

Charter Schools: Creating Hope and Opportunity for American Education

Charter Schools: Creating Hope and Opportunity for American Education. Joe Nathan. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

The Teacher Unions

The Teacher Unions: How the NEA and AFT Sabotage Reform and Hold Students, Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers Hostage to Bureaucracy. Myron Lieberman. The book shows how the teacher unions are bad for everyone concerned (except for their own leaders). The author recommends that teachers be represented by professional organizations instead.

Why Our Children Can’t Read & What We Can Do about It

Why Our Children Can't Read & What We Can Do about It: A Scientific Revolution in Reading. Diane McGuinness. This book provides the scholarly underpinning for the excellent Phono-Graphix method of teaching children to read.

Why Schoolchildren Can’t Read

Why Schoolchildren Can't Read. Bonnie Macmillan. The Institute of Economic Affairs. This book provides insightful information on how children learn to read.

Running on Ritalin

Running on Ritalin: A Physician Reflects on Children, Society and Performance in a Pill. Laurence H. Diller. The author wonders why only medical solutions are being proposed for behaviour problems that have many possible causes and solutions.

Failure to Connect

Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect our Children's Minds - For Better and Worse. Jane M. Healy. Once a bedazzled enthusiast of educational computing but now a troubled skeptic, the author concludes that we are spending for too much money on computers.

Teach Your Children Well

Teach Your Children Well: A Solution To Some Of North American's Educational Problems. Maureen Somers and Michael Maloney. Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. This book tells the story of Quinte Learning Centre in Belleville, Ontario, where people of all ages were taught to read, write, spell, and do arithmetic in an impressively short time. The Centre's methods, despite being in the public domain and supported by the research, are being ignored by most educators.

The Reformation of Canada’s Schools

The Reformation of Canada's Schools: Breaking the Barriers to Parental Choice. Mark Holmes. The author argues that only school choice can successfully address Canada's, particularly Ontario's, educational mediocrity. The details of practical choice are described and the necessary policies listed.

How to Get the Right Education for your Child

How to Get the Right Education for your Child. Malkin Dare. OQE/SAER Publications. This book provides practical strategies for the parents of children who are struggling in school. Each option is explained in a readable and information-packed manner. Read More

Who Killed Canadian History

Who Killed Canadian History? Jack Granatstein. Written in the author's usual lively style, this book bemoans young Canadians' appalling lack of knowledge of their own country.

The Teaching Gap

The Teaching Gap: What Teachers Can Learn From The World's Best Educators. James W. Stigler and James Hiebert. The authors describe the Japanese system of teacher-led collaborative improvement which has resulted in the inspirational teaching found in virtually every Japanese classroom today.

The Case for School Choice

The Case for School Choice: Models from the US, New Zealand, Denmark, and Sweden. Claudia Rebanks Hepburn. The Fraser Institute. The author analyzes the measures taken by countries which are successfully reforming their public education system and finds that their success is due to charter schools, vouchers, tax credits and/or school accountability systems.

Teachers Unions in Canada

Teachers Unions in Canada. Stephen B. Lawton, George Bedard, Duncan MacLellan, Xiaobin Li. The authors found that Canadian labour laws are overly favourable to labour. Consequently, in this book they advocate more balanced labour laws, most notably freedom for teachers to choose from a variety of unions all competing with one another to provide the best service.

Losing Our Language

Losing Our Language: How Multicultural Classroom Instruction is Undermining Our Children's Ability to Read, Write and Reason. Sandra Stotsky. The author analyzes the content of American readers over the years and shows how a requirement for political correctness and social justice content has resulted in debased readers and lower academic achievement.

Teach Your Child to Read in Just Ten Minutes a Day

Teach Your Child to Read in Just Ten Minutes a Day. Sidney Ledson. The author describes his fail-safe method, which he spent nearly 30 years creating, testing and refining, for teaching young children how to read.

Market Education: The Unknown History

Market Education: The Unknown History. Andrew Coulson. Drawing on historical evidence, the author makes the case that competitive free-market systems of education have constantly done a better job of serving the public's needs than state-run school systems have.

No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing High-Poverty Schools

No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing High-Poverty Schools.Samuel Casey Carter. This book profiles 21 high-poverty schools that prove children of all races and income levels can take tough courses and succeed.

The Academic Achievement Challenge

The Academic Achievement Challenge: What Really Works in the Classroom. Jeanne S. Chall. In this book, the late Jeanne Chall, Emeritus Professor of Education at Harvard University, analyzes a vast body of educational research, finding that teacher-centred approaches result in higher achievement overall, especially for disadvantaged children and those with learning difficulties.

From Hope to Harris

From Hope to Harris: The Reshaping of Ontario’s Schools. R.D. Gidney. The author traces the history of Ontario’s public schools from the Hope commission (1950) to the present, conclusively demonstrating that there’s nothing new under the sun.

Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics

Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States. Liping Ma. In a very thorough and technical manner, this book describes the nature and development of the “profound understanding of fundamental mathematics” that elementary teachers need in order to be accomplished mathematics teachers.

Core Knowledge Preschool Sequence

Core Knowledge Preschool Sequence. Core Knowledge Foundation. Unlike the Ontario curriculum, this material stresses the important foundation of knowledge that preschool and kindergarten should provide in order to develop literate, responsible, and contributing citizens.

Can the Market Save Our Schools

Can the Market Save Our Schools? Claudia R. Hepburn. This collection of papers makes a compelling case that market mechanisms can dramatically improve the effectiveness of Canadian education.
Order from the Fraser Institute

Vocabulary Development

Vocabulary Development. Steven A. Stahl. Explaining that the number of words a person knows is highly related to his or her reading comprehension and overall intelligence, the author outlines the most effective ways to expand children’s vocabularies.

Teachers as Owners

Teachers as Owners: A Key to Revitalizing Public Education. Edward J. Dirkswager, ed. This book outlines how the model of the professional partnership can be adapted to fit public education, allowing teachers to join doctors, lawyers, dentists and so forth as managers of small businesses.

Teach Them All to Read

Teach Them All to Read: Catching the Kids Who Fall Through the Cracks. Elaine K. McEwan. This excellent book, directed primarily at elementary teachers and principals, is a step-by-step blueprint for ensuing that every single child learns to read.

Parenting a Struggling Reader

Parenting a Struggling Reader: A Guide to Diagnosing and Finding Help for Your Child’s reading Difficulties. Susan L. Hall & Louisa C. Moats. Stressing the importance of catching problems early, this book is an excellent guide to diagnosing and finding help for children’s reading difficulties.

How to Increase your Child’s Verbal Intelligence

How to Increase your Child’s Verbal Intelligence: Read America’s Revolutionary Language Wise Programme. Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness. This book lays out a program for augmenting children’s intelligence, improving their ability to understand what they read and hear.

Class War

Class War: The State of British Education. Chris Woodhead. The former Chief Inspector of Schools explains the state of education in England and his belief that the only way forward is school vouchers.

Unraveling the ADD/ADHD Fiasco

Unraveling the ADD/ADHD Fiasco: Successful Parenting Without Drugs. David B. Stein. Dr. Stein attacks many widely-held but unsubstantiated assumptions about ADD/ADHD, such as that stimulant medication and behavioural management techniques should be the mainstay of an effective long-term way of managing ADD/ADHD, instead offering the Caregivers’ Skills Program, a treatment alternative that sounds very promising.

The First Days of School

The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher. Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong. This book lays out everything teachers need to do to get the year off to a strong start — including such things as preparing the classroom, teaching and enforcing routines, acting and dressing for success, and much more.

There are no Shortcuts

There are no Shortcuts. The author is a teacher at a Los Angeles school where the vast majority of students are economically disadvantaged and have English as a second language. Yet Mr. Esquith's students score in the top 10% on standardized tests and go on to colleges such as Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford. He attributes their success to the fact that he and his students work harder, longer, and with more discipline than almost anyone else.

Overcoming Dyslexia

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at any Level. Sally Shaywitz. The author, co-director of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention, discusses some excellent systematic phonics programs, along with key principles of teaching beginning reading. Among these principles are the importance of oral reading with immediate feedback, the need to teach to the point of "overlearning", the importance of early intervention, and the necessity for vocabulary development.

The Myth of Ability

The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child. John Mighton. Anyone can learn math and anyone can teach it. Dr. Mighton has used this premise to develop a revolutionary teaching method that isolates and describes concepts so clearly anyone can understand them. Instead of fearing failure, kids learn from their own successes, and gain the confidence and skills they need to love learning.

The Worm in the Apple

The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions are Destroying American Education. Peter Brimelow. This is a devastating and marvelously-readable account of the malevolent role of the teachers' unions in American elementary and secondary education. The author compares the unions' political and economic monopoly to the industrial trusts that put a stranglehold on American business a hundred years ago (and which are now against the law).

The Well-Trained Mind

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. This book provides a blueprint for parents who wish to give their children a classical education at home. The curriculum is very demanding. For example, grade 9 students are expected to read 25 books, among them Homer's Iliad, Plato's Republic, and Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Getting It Wrong From the Beginning

Getting It Wrong From the Beginning: Our Progressivist Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. Kieran Egan. This important book isolates the essential ideas of progressivism, such as the superiority of hands-on and discovery learning, and the inferiority of rote learning. Tracing these beliefs back to an 18th-century English philosopher named Herbert Spencer, Dr. Egan shows that Spencer's scientific and social ideas are now considered museum pieces.

Why Boys are Different and How to Bring Out the Best in Them

Why Boys are Different and How to Bring Out the Best in Them. Bonnie Macmillan. This book discusses all the ways that boys differ from girls, including such things as their fetal development, brain differentiation, emotional differences, and so on. Dr. Macmillan attributes the world-wide gender gap in academic achievement (in favour of girls) to "multi-focus" teaching methods, pointing out that when a single-focus approach such as systematic phonics is used, sex differences are eradicated and sometimes the boys even outperform the girls.

Early Reading Instruction

Early Reading Instruction: What Science Really Tells Us About How to Teach Reading. Diane McGuinness. This book provides an extremely comprehensive analysis of the research on teaching beginning reading and spelling. Dr. McGuinness explains that certain practices (learning sound-letter correspondences; practice blending and segmenting sounds in words; and copying/writing words, phrases and sentences) strongly predict reading success. Most so-called literacy activities have no effect and some, like sight-word memorization, have a strongly-negative effect.

Growing a Reader from Birth

Growing a Reader from Birth: Your Child's Path from Language to Literacy. Diane McGuinness. This research-based book provides a very readable blueprint for parents on how to facilitate their children's healthy language development. It includes advice on how to talk with young children and how to handle beginning reading instruction.

Public Education as a Business

Public Education as a Business: Real Costs and Accountability. Myron Lieberman. This book discusses a number of hidden costs to public education, for example: depreciation expenses; deferred maintenance; non-levied property taxes; parental fund-raising; parent-paid remedial and enrichment education; corporate donations; schools in Native reservations, military bases, and correctional institutions; subsidized teacher training; remedial education in post-secondary institutions and workplaces; and the administrative costs of collecting education taxes.

Making Schools Work

Making Schools Work: A Revolutionary Plan to get your Children the Education They Need. William G. Ouchi. The author, an expert on organization and management, examined innovative decentralized school systems in Edmonton, Seattle and Houston. He found that decentralized systems consistently outperform centralized systems. Dr. Ouchi identifies seven keys to success: every principal is an entrepreneur; every school controls its own budget; everyone is accountable for student performance and for budgets; everyone delegates authority to those below; there is a burning focus on student achievement; every school is a community of learners; and families have real choices among a variety of unique schools.

Kill the Messenger: The War on Standardized Testing

Kill the Messenger: The War on Standardized Testing. Richard P. Phelps. This book demolishes the myths and half-truths circulated by the critics of standardized testing. While acknowledging that standardized testing has its flaws and will never be perfect, the author deplores the fog of unreasonable criticisms that obscures the legitimate criticisms and renders policy-makers' jobs very difficult and confusing.

Education and Capitalism

Education and Capitalism: How Overcoming our Fear of Markets and Economics Can Improve America's Schools. Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph L. Bast. This book applies basic economic principles to education reform. It isolates eight root causes of the poor performance of government (public) schools: lack of competition; ineffectual school boards; union opposition to reform; conflicts of interest; political interference; lack of standards; centralized control and funding; and anti-academic classroom incentives.

Education Myths

Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools - And Why It Isn't So. Jay P. Greene. Dr. Greene examines 18 widely-held beliefs about education and finds they just aren't true. Some examples of these untrue myths are: schools perform poorly because they need more money; small classes would produce big improvements; certified or more experienced teachers are substantially more effective; and school choice harms public schools.

What America Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries

What America Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries. David Salisbury and James Tooley, eds. This book examines the school choice policies of a number of countries, including Chile, Australia, and several European countries. The article on Canada, by Claudia Hepburn of the Fraser Institute, provides a useful overview of the range of policies among the provinces and the associated outcomes.

Signposts of Success

Signposts of Success: Interpreting Ontario's Elementary School Test Scores. David Johnson. The author ranks most Ontario publicly-funded elementary schools on the basis of their students' results on provincial testing. Dr. Johnson, a professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, finds that high scores at schools in wealthy neighbourhoods do not necessarily mean that these schools are providing a superior service. Some schools with less affluent and less well-educated parents have high achievement results, and some schools with affluent, well-educated parents have results that are not especially good given their school community. Available online from C. D. Howes Institute

Hold on to your Kids

Hold on to your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté. The authors hypothesize that young children have a hard-wired survival-related instinct to become attached to others. But many features of modern society are conspiring to hijack the attachment from healthy bonding to parents to unhealthy bonding with peers. Some of the results of this lost orientation of children toward nurturing adults are troubled and rebellious children, bullies, the practice of medicating kids, and general alienation on the part of today's young people.

The War Against Grammar

The War Against Grammar. . David Mulroy. The author, a professor of classics, disagrees with the establishment view that the teaching of traditional grammar is a waste of time. Arguing that a solid grounding in the grammatical analysis of sentences is necessary for the development of good writing and speaking skills, both in one's native tongue and in foreign languages, the author attributes students' inability to write in complete sentences, not to mention logical paragraphs, to their lack of foundation in basic grammar.

Exceptional Children

Exceptional Children - Ordinary Schools: Getting the Education You Want for your Special Needs Child. Norm Forman. This book was written by a Toronto psychologist who makes his living helping parents advocate for their special-needs kids in publicly-funded schools. The author outlines an advocacy campaign that would impress General Norman Schwartzkopf: creating a master file, knowing your rights, and so on. However, the author never admits the possibility that even the best advocacy can fail to achieve a satisfactory outcome - a depressingly common state of affairs.

Doomed to Fail: The Built-In Defects of American Education

Doomed to Fail: The Built-In Defects of American Education . Paul A. Zoch. This book zeroes in on an aspect of child-centred learning that may not have occurred to many people. Because the child-centred philosophy calls for learning to be easy and fun, students are freed from the need to work hard to meet high standards. In child-centred classrooms, the primary responsibility for learning falls on teachers, not on students. In some cases, the teachers work harder for the students' success than the students themselves do.

Educating Citizens

Educating Citizens: International Perspectives on Civic Values and School Choice. Patrick J. Wolf and Stephen Macedo. This book contains a collection of essays that examine whether school choice promotes religious and social fragmentation and the erosion of civic values. Looking at the extensive school choice programs in the Netherlands, England and Wales, Belgium, Canada, Germany, France, and Italy, the more or less unanimous conclusion may be summed up as follows. The measurable effects of recent school choice policies on academic achievement, on civic virtue, and on integration and educational equity have been modest, but they have been in almost every case positive.

Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children

Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. This is the very interesting story of two young researchers who wandered why, despite the best efforts of early childhood educators, low-income children were still lagging behind in school. Knowing that the dramatically-larger vocabularies of high-income children are one of the main reasons for their academic success, the researchers expected to find big differences in the quality of the experiences and language to which the children had been exposed. However, it turned out that by far the biggest difference was simply the amount of talking - the number of words children were exposed to hour after hour. A secondary factor was the far greater amount of encouragement and affirmation that high-income children received from their parents.

For the Love of Words: Vocabulary Instruction that Works

For the Love of Words: Vocabulary Instruction that Works. Diane E. Paynter, Elena Bodrova, and Jane K. Doty. Many students have vocabularies far below what is necessary for them to do well at school. This book offers teachers a practical and systematic instructional framework for helping their low-vocabulary students close the gap. There are chapters on such things as direct instruction of new vocabulary words, planning for incidental learning, creating a customized list, deciding when and how to introduce new words, and assessing students' progress. The book includes a list of essential words by grade level.

Reading Through Tears

Reading Through Tears. Byron Harrison and Jean Clyde. This book comes from Australia. The authors are reading tutors who use systematic phonics, succeeding in teaching 100% of their students to read. The data reported in this book are based on their study of more than 3000 children. Out of their clinical practice has come the Visual Attention Span (VAS) Theory. VAS is the number of letters that can be held in short-term memory and, as children mature, their VAS increases. The more letters a student can hold in his or her short term memory, the better he or she will fare with whole language/balanced literacy methods (which involve a lot of memorization). Since boys mature more slowly than girls, boys tend to have lower VAS scores and do worse at reading in whole language/balanced literacy classrooms. But in systematic phonics classrooms, where children are required to process sounds as opposed to memorizing letters, VAS is not a factor and there is no gender gap.

Order from VAS Pty. Ltd., Box 388, Kingston, Tasmania, Australia 7050

The Knowledge Deficit

The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children. E. D. Hirsch, Jr. In his latest book, Dr. Hirsch once more tackles the disastrous effect of the current "content-neutral, skills-oriented concept of education" on students, especially disadvantaged students. He explains that modern teaching approaches not only fail to help low-income students catch up to their more privileged peers, but actually cause them to fall even further behind. Dr. Hirsch deplores the unfairness of this process, and points out that it has negative consequences in terms of social cohesion, democracy, and the health of the economy. As well, the widening spread in academic preparation contributes to teacher dissatisfaction and student boredom.

Myths and Misconceptions about Teaching: What Really Happens in the Classroom

Myths and Misconceptions about Teaching: What Really Happens in the Classroom. Vicki E. Snider. The author identifies six teaching myths that are particularly harmful for low-performing students (those with disabilities or risk factors). The six myths are: the myth of process which emphasizes what occurs during instruction and de-emphasizes what happens as a result of instruction; the myth of fun which requires instruction to be entertaining; the myth of eclectic instruction which prevents teachers from using the best approach for a particular lesson; the myth of the good teacher which discourages teachers from trying to improve their techniques; the myth of learning style which expects teachers to teach all of their students differently; and the myth of disability which refers to the low expectations conferred on certain students.

Let’s Kill Dick and Jane

Let's Kill Dick and Jane: How the Open Court Publishing Company Fought the Culture of American Education. Harold Henderson. Educational reforms come and go, yet public schools preserve their pervasive and almost invisible culture. Nothing much is going to change until their anti-intellectural, activity-oriented bias changes. This book tells the story of the Open Court Publishing Company which for 34 years sold research-based elementary math and reading textbooks in an effort to combat the culture and bring about real school reform

Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get out the shovel - why everything you know is wrong

John Stossel. A fun read, this book describes many popularly-held beliefs on a variety of topics, including parenting, health, business, and government. Of particular interest is the chapter entitled "Stupid Schools". As with other areas of the book, the format is to state a "myth" and follow it with a "truth" counterpoint. Regular readers of the SQE Forum will be familiar with many of these education myths but will enjoy the way the author lays out his counter-arguments. (Review by Nancy Wagner)

The War Against Hope

Rod Paige. According to the author, a former US secretary of education, the biggest impediment to meaningful school reform is the enormous, self-aggrandizing power wielded by the teacher' unions. Although the teacher' unions profess to be on the side of the teachers (and of the students), they are in fact acting in their own best interests - even when those interests conflict with the welfare of classroom teachers and students.

The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science

Norman Doidge. Only a few decades ago, scientists considered the brain to be fixed or “hard-wired” and considered most forms of brain damage, therefore, to be incurable. Dr. Doidge, an eminent psychiatrist and researcher, was struck by how his patients' own transformation belied this, and set out to explore the new science of neuroplasticity by interviewing both scientific pioneers in neuroscience and patients who have benefited from neuro-rehabilitation. (Review by Oliver Sacks)

It`s Being Done: Academic success in unexpected schools

Karin Chenoweth. This book proves that even disadvantaged immigrant children can be taught to a high level, profiling 15 American schools that are doing exactly that. The author shows that an unyielding belief in the ability of all children - regardless of background - to excel at the highest levels, combined with a relentless commitment to excellent instruction, can transform people's lives.

End of Ignorance: Multiplying our human potential

John Mighton. The author, a Toronto mathematician and playwright, diplomatically but devastatingly demolishes the constructivist approach used in most Canadian public schools to teach math. Drawing on new research in brain development, Dr. Mighton calls for a re-examination of the assumptions which underlie current teaching.

The Last Normal Child

Lawrence W. Diller. This book presents the viewpoint of a pediatrician who specializes in children with learning and behaviour problems. Although the author sometimes prescribes stimulants like Ritalin, he strongly prefers to begin by trying behavioural and educational interventions, such as encouraging parents and teachers to use more structured responses to bad behaviour.

Ivory Tower Blues: A university system in crisis

James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar. This book provides a very frank report on the situation in modern Canadian universities, principally with reference to the problems of grade inflation and its consequences. In response to an increasing number of high school students arriving with increasingly inflated marks, the universities have responded by watering down their courses and inflating their own grades.

Teaching and Learning in Japan

Thomas Rohlen and Gerald LeTendre. Drawing on ethnographic and experimental studies, this book gives the reader an inside view of Japanese teaching methods in elementary classrooms. A far cry from western notions of an emphasis on rote learning and strict discipline, Japanese classrooms emphasize the process of learning and encourage individuality in their students. The book also explores interesting aspects of Japanese culture, such as Zen meditation and noh drama.

The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising confident and compassionate kids in an age of self-importance

Polly Young-Eisendrath. Well-meaning parents and educators believe that praise, encouragement, and advantages translate directly into happiness in childhood and success in adulthood. According to this book, the reverse is true. Misplaced indulgence produces young adults who are stymied by the ordinary challenges of life, lack basic skills of empathy, and fear humiliation above all else.

What the Best College Teachers Do

Ken Bain. What makes a great teacher great? Who are the professors students remember long after graduation? This book, the conclusion of a 15-year study of nearly 100 college teachers in a wide variety of fields and universities, offers valuable answers for all educators.

Outliers: The story of success

Malcolm Gladwell. Most people think the only way you can be outstanding at something like music or hockey is by being born with a rare talent. The author builds on recent findings that even the most talented individuals have to invest a minimum of 10,000 hours of purposeful practice before they can attain the status of world-class expert. Mr. Gladwell argues that a third element (besides talent and practice) is necessary for success.

Measuring Up: What educational testing really tells us

Daniel Koretz. Anyone who has read this book will never again take tests results at face value. Some types of testing are better than others, and possibly the worst type of testing, according to this Harvard professor, is "performance standards testing", the type of testing used in most North American public schools.

The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t born. I’ts grown. Here’s how.

Daniel Coyle. This fascinating book convincingly argues that there are no such things as "geniuses" or "savants". Rather, world-class performance - in any sphere, from music to sports to math to chess - is the result of a huge amount of dedicated, purposeful practice. Filled with interesting examples and anecdotes, this book painlessly conveys important information about the learning process - information every teacher and coach should know.

Why Don’t Students Like School? A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works

Daniel T. Willingham. Written in an engaging and entertaining style, filled with interesting examples and quizzes, this book illustrates nine principles of cognitive science that, if applied, will improve teaching significantly. Although the book is aimed primarily at classroom teachers (and should be on every teacher's desk), parents will also find it interesting and informative.

The Beautiful Tree: A personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves

James Tooley. This is a lyrical retelling of the author's discovery of thousands of small parent-funded schools in the slums of cities in Africa, India, and China. Dr. Tooley learned that poor parents are willing to make tremendous financial sacrifices to get better education for their children. While international aid agencies counsel the poor to wait patiently while they work on improving the appalling government schools, the poor have taken matters into their own hands. The author hints at the relevance of their solution to efforts to improve public education in developed countries.

The Making of Americans: Democracy and our schools

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. The author makes a very convincing case that the fundamental flaw in progressive education is not ineffective teaching methods (although he agrees hey are problematic) but rather progressive educators' rejection of the need for a common content-rich curriculum. Dr. Hirsch argues that the absence of such a curriculum leads inevitably to low standards, perpetuation of class differences, widening inequality, and a weakened democracy. 

The Death and Life of the Great American School System

Diane Ravitch. The author, a prominent education reformer who formerly supported testing and school choice, repudiates them in this book. The vast majority of the book is devoted to the problems with the accountability measures now being tried in the US, and it would be hard to argue with her conclusion that they are not working well and may even be harmful. But the chapter in which Ravitch nixes school choice is not convincing, as it condemns school choice solely on the grounds that there has not yet been the spectacular improvement anticipated by school choice proponents. However, the jury is still out on school choice.

Crazy Like a Fox: One principal’s triumph in the inner city

Ben Chavis. The author is a highly-unorthodox Lumbee Indian who has transformed California's American Indian Public Charter School from a disaster into the fifth-highest-ranking middle school in California. This despite a school population that consists mainly of poor minority students! Dr. Chavis pulls no punches in debunking the myth that poor minority inner-city students are doomed to fail. Focusing on back-to-basics ideas - academics, attendance, and hard work - he has created a structured school that delivers astonishing results. Am American Indian from humble sharecropping roots, Dr. Chavis emphatically rejects the culture of victimization so common in today's schools.

The Flat World and Education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future

Linda Darling-Hammond. Because the author has been identified by Newsweek Magazine as the "favorite of the unions", one might fear that this book would be the usual diatribe against standardized testing and other union bogeymen. Although it's possible we misunderstood this book, since it does contain a lot of words, but we think that Dr. Darling-Hammond is calling for the introduction of measures that will make it possible for every child to succeed in school. And so say all of us!

The Genius in All of Us: Why everything you’ve been told about genetics, talent, and IQ is wrong

David Shenk. This book makes the case that élite performance is the result of hard work, perseverance, and purposeful practice - as opposed to inborn gifts. While it may be tempting - even comforting - to think that the reason you aren't a great opera singer or a champion golfer is because of the way you are wired, it turns out that almost anyone can achieve greatness if he or she is prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. The gatekeeper is not your genetic endowment, but rather your capacity to dig deep and tap into what you already have. The book presents cutting-edge research from a wide variety of disciplines - cognitive science, genetics, biology, and child development.

Nurture Shock: New thinking about children

Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman. This fascinating book applies recent research about children to current child-raising and child-educating practices - and finds that many of our current practices are backfiring. Here are a few of the things we're doing wrong: telling kids they're smart, as opposed to praising them for being hard workers; not realizing that it's very important to respond to babies' conversational gambits; fostering childhood obesity by depriving young children of sleep; subjecting children to interventional programs at school, like driver training and drug resistance indoctrination; and basing educational decisions on the results of IQ tests given to five-year-olds. In general, we are making our mistakes on the basis of two key fallacies - the assumption that things work for kids the same way they work for adults, and the belief that things are either good or bad for kids.

Learning As We Go: Why school choice is worth the wait

Paul T. Hill. The lack of stunning gains for American school choice programs (charter schools in 43 states and vouchers or tuition tax credits in about a dozen jurisdictions) has emboldened critics and dismayed supporters alike. This book posits that, while the theories behind the school choice movement are correct, they fail to take into consideration "the real-world factors that can complicate, delay, and even in some instances interfere with the cause and effect relationships identified by the theories behind school choice". These real-world factors include political opposition, entrenched systems, inevitable time lags, and the complexity of creating good schools.

The Grammar School: Striving for excellence for 50 years in a public school world

Paul W. Bennett. This book tells the story of Halifax's Grammar School, a private school that is now quite venerable and hugely influential - but it was not always thus. Written in a very readable and engaging style by a former headmaster, the book illustrates how difficult it is to create a good school. It details the school's problems in attracting enough students over the years; schisms, including a breakaway school; struggles with buildings and mortgages; strong personalities and heated resignations; and much more.

Teach Like a Champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college

Doug Lemov. This book names and codifies effective teaching practices - proven and fantastic techniques that any teacher can use to increase how much his or her students learn. Without the knowledge of these techniques, no teacher can be very effective. Yet few - if any - of these techniques are taught in most faculties of education. It is safe to say that reading this book would be far more valuable to prospective teachers than spending an entire year at a faculty of education. The book is accompanied by a DVD that shows actual teachers using each of the techniques.

Why Boys Fail: Saving our sons from an educational system that’s leaving them behind

Richard Whitmire. This book begins by presenting evidence that boys are struggling in school (and it is overwhelming). The author then examines the usual suspects (for example, feminized classrooms, video games, dearth of boy books, ADHD, etc.) and concludes that they are by no means the whole story. He then looks at an unusual suspect, namely the lack of systematic phonics in primary classrooms, and makes the case that this lack plays a significant role in boys' problems. Unfortunately, the book rambles and does not present as compelling a case as it might.

Spin Cycle: How research is used in policy debates: The case of charter schools

Jeffrey R. Henig. The author is a professor who has studied and written about school choice issues for 20 years and is viewed as unbiased by researchers on both sides of the argument. His book examines how the debate became so polarized and, as well, lays out the bottom line of the evidence on charter schools to date. His main conclusions are that there are good and bad charter schools, that the test scores of charter school students are on average slightly lower than the test scores of students in conventional schools but that this does not necessarily mean that charter schools are failing to perform (because charter schools may attract weaker students), and that parents are generally more satisfied with charter schools. 

The Equation for Excellence: How to make your child excel at math

Arvin Vohra. Math is important because it develops students' ability to analyze and solve problems, apply logic and reasoning, and generally develop cognitive architecture. As the title promises, this excellent book sets out the fundamental principles and techniques parents and teachers can use to make their students excel at math. Written in an easy-to-read style, the book demonstrates how everyone can be good at math, given proper teaching.

Brain School: Stories of children with learning disabilities and attention disorders…

Howard Eaton. The author is the principal of schools in Vancouver and Victoria that use the approach developed by Barbara Arrowsmith Young to overcome their students' significant learning difficulties. The Arrowsmith program does not directly address learning difficulties in academic areas such as reading and math, but rather focuses on the underlying cognitive weaknesses that make it impossible for children to learn in regular classrooms. New understanding of brain plasticity and how to overcome learning problems has made it possible for every child to overcome his or her cognitive weaknesses and achieve academic success. The book tells the stories of nine children as they work through the program at one of Mr. Eaton's schools, going on to make successful transitions to regular schools. 

Be That As It May! Or ten stupid things governments to do mess up “edyukayshun”

Roberta Maclise McDonald. Written by a retired teacher, this book examines modern educational practices in the light of what was done in the past, usually finding that the past was better. (There are exceptions, for example language immersion and charter schools.) The book is exceptionally interesting, however, because of the light it sheds on teacher powerlessness. Despite deploring many (most?) modern practices, this teacher was unable to do a thing about them. The book will be an eye-opener to those who condemn teachers for going along with progressive policies.

Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching

Anita L. Archer and Charles A. Hughes. Explicit instruction is systematic, direct, engaging, and success-oriented - and has been shown to promote achievement for all students. Rigorously research-based, this highly-practical and accessible resource gives special and general education teachers the tools to implement explicit instruction in any grade level or conent area. The authors are leading experts who provide clear guidlines for identifying key concepts, skills, and routines to teach; designing and delivering effective lessons; and giving students oportunities to practise and master new material. Sample lesson plans, lively examples, and reproducible checklists and teacher worksheets enhance the utility of the volume.

Lowering Higher Education: The rise of corporate universities and the fall of liberal education

James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar. The authors are professors at the University of Western Ontario. Basically, they are chronicling the modern trend in universities towards the de-emphasis of liberal arts and science education in favour of credentialism and job training. They examine the corporatization of universities within the context of a range of contentious issues in higher education, from lowered standards and inflated grades to the overall decline of humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences instruction. 

Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don’t know about Canadian universities

Ken S. Coates & Bill Morrison. Though ostensibly written for students, this book contains a great deal of information that will surprise many parents, teachers, taxpayers, and even professors. Canadian universities have undergone a lot of changes over the past 25 years. Here are a few little-known facts: a university degree is no longer a golden ticket to landing a job; the university one attends matters very little; university administrations' top priority is filling spaces; cheating is rampant on modern campuses; and nearly half of the students at some universities fail to graduate. 

Special Interest: Teachers unions and America’s public schools

Terry M. Moe. The author is a Stanford professor of political science whose specialty is the study of government and political institutions. When he set out to find out why American public schools were falling so far short of the mark, he discovered that their administration is characterized by "bizarre forms of organization ... that no one in their right mind would favor if they were simply concerned with what works best for children. The schools are organized mainly to benefit the adults who work there." And the principal reason behind the bizarre forms of organization, according to Professor Moe, is the teachers' unions. 

Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement

John Hattie. The author, a professor of education at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, wanted to make sense of the hundreds of thousands of education studies with their often-conflicting conclusions, and so he decided to synthesize more than 800 education meta-analyses (studies that convert the effects of multiple studies to a common measure, allowing the overall effects to be quantified). His primary finding is that teachers and teaching are hugely influential - far more important than teaching conditions or resources. Further, he found that "active" teaching (as opposed to "facilitative" teaching) is much more powerful. Further information is available here and here.

Teaching Needy Kids in our Backward System: 42 years of trying

Siegfried "Zig" Engelmann. This is a great read, telling the story of Project Follow Through from the point of view of the author. Project Follow Through was designed as a sort of a contest to find out which teaching approach would best help five-to-eight-year-old children catch up. Involving 180 communities and over 200,000 at-risk children, it compared 22 teaching models from 1968 until 1977. The author is a genius at instruction, and his Direct Instruction programs, when adequately implemented, actually managed to bring the disadvantaged children up to the average. Direct Instruction won the contest hands-down. It was the only program that showed gains in all three measured areas - academic, cognitive, and affective. When the results were announced, the author braced himself for an onslaught of enquiries about and orders for his program. They never came. Because the education establishment views Mr. Engelmann's Direct Instruction programs as too prescriptive, they clung to their failed approaches. Basically, the worse a program did on Project Follow Through, the more popular it is. Mr. Engelmann's thoughts on this phenomenon make very interesting reading.

Class Warfare: Inside the fight to fix America’s schools

Steven Brill. Class Warfare tells the story of the education wars currently raging in the United States, along with some history. The author uses the Race for the Top competition (to which he attributes the recent tectonic shifts in state legislation) as the narrative structure. No dry historical tome, Class Warfare is full of personal information and anecdotes about the various individuals who are trying to reform American education - a widely-assorted cast of characters indeed. With each chapter short, typically only two or three pages, reading the book is like eating salted nuts – you read one chapter and you just have to read one more.

The Good School: How smart parents get their kids the education they deserve

Peg Tyre. Written in a very chatty style, the book caters to parents who have the ability to choose their children's school. The author offers parents some sophisticated methods for assessing classrooms and schools, also providing a great deal of research-based information about how to help kids do better in school. The chapters on class size, testing, reading, math, and curriculum are particularly valuable, but the last chapter offers bad advice about leaving kids in sub-standard schools while their parents try to make things better. 

Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength

Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.  Drawing on cutting-edge research, the authors explain that willpower has a physical basis and operates like a muscle: it can be strengthened with practice and fatigued by overuse. Willpower is fueled by glucose, and it can be bolstered simply by replenishing the brain's store of fuel. As a result, proper nutrition and adequate sleep actually help people resist temptation. And while there are natural limits to our self-control, these boundaries can be manipulated. Once one establishes the right habits and techniques, willpower gets easier, requiring less conscious mental energy to avoid temptation. Filled with fascinating anecdotes and vignettes, the book draws lessons from the lab as well as from the lives of entrepreneurs, parents, entertainers, and artists.

Worlds Apart: British Columbia Schools, Politics, and Labour Relations Before and After 1972

Thomas Fleming. The author, an emeritus professor in educational history and policy at the University of Victoria, documents the road from unity to discord in BC's education system. He documents three main changes that led to the destruction of the amicable cooperation that had once characterized the system: the school consolidation movement; the weakening of educational leadership; and the growth of teacher influence and power. The author also identifies secondary causes: the expansion of schools' mandate into the social domain; the rise of special interest politics, the decline in school populations, and the shifting of the province's demographics. The result is a 40-year history of intense conflict between the British Columbia Teachers' Federation and the government, resulting in a much-weakened education system. 

Moonwalking with Einstein: The art and science of remembering everything

Joshua Foer. The author is a journalist who got interested in memory training when he covered the U.S. Memory Championship. Although the author had no previous aptitude for or interest in memory training, he decided to train for the contest - which he ended up winning the next year. Most people assume that memory is memory (and it deteriorates as you age), but it turns out that this is not true. "The brain is like a muscle, ... and memory training is a form of mental workout. Over time, like any form of exercise, it'll make the brain fitter, quicker, and more nimble." The book reveals many techniques (ancient and modern) for improving memory, and along the way relates many interesting stories about the denizens of the quirky subculture of memorizers. Memory, it seems, is a gift we all possess but which all too often slips our minds.

A Chance to Make History: What works and what doesn’t in providing an excellent education for all

Wendy Kopp. The mission of Teach For America is to eliminate educational inequality by recruiting recent university graduates and professionals to teach in low-income classrooms for two years. With their energy and dedication, these teachers are proving over and over again that disadvantaged kids can succeed in school. Thirty years ago, the prevailing assumption in educational circles was that socio-economic circumstances determined educational outcomes. Twenty years ago, this belief was starting to be challenged by a few examples of teachers and schools that were changing the trajectories of their low-income students. Today, there are too many schools like this to count. Knowing that low-income children can succeed in school and fired up by their sense of injustice, Teach For America alumni are now pushing the frontiers of educational reform.

Teachers Matter: Rethinking how public schools identify, reward, and retain great educators

Marcus A. Winters. This book starts with the well-accepted premise that teachers are important and that teacher quality varies enormously. Fortunately, there has been a revolution in the ability of statisticians to use empircal research to measure teacher effectiveness. As a result, we are now in a position to identify good and bad teachers and use the data to prevent potentially-bad teachers from entering the classroom or remove them before they become entrenched. And, on the other hand, great teachers should be paid more. The author also argues for the removal of unnecessary barriers to teacher certification. 

Pension Ponzi: How pubic sector unions are bankrupting Canada’s health care, education and your ....

Bill Tufts & Lee Fairbanks. Written by a pension expert and an award-winning journalist, this is a very readable exposé of the huge gap between the wages and pensions of public sector workers and private sector workers. As a result, many public sector workers will collect more income in retirement than they earned during their working careers. Meanwhile, the 80% of Canadian taxpayers who don't belong to a public sector union - most of whom have no true pension at all - get the privilege of paying for it all. Nearly every one of the public sector union pension plans is underfunded to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, and taxpayers are legally on the hook to make up the difference, as well as any investment losses. One example: the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, according to The Globe and Mail, is actually $35 billion short of being able to pay its commitments.

Clear Teaching: With Direct Instruction, Siegfried Englemann discovered a better way of teaching

Shepard Barbash. This booklet tells the story of Direct Instruction (DI) - possibly the most successful pedgagogical method every invented. The program works and has been demonstrated to work over and over and over again in many different locations and for many different subjects and students. DI has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that disadvantaged students can learn at acceptable rates. Yet the educational establishment treats DI like a pariah.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Paul Tough. Most people think that intelligence is the most important factor when it comes to predicitng academic and career success. This book argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: attributes like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. This book contains new powerful ideas about how to help children thrive: innovations that have transformed schools, homes, and lives.

Practice Perfect: 42 rules for getting better at getting better

Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, Katie Yezzi. There are no shortcuts to success, whether it be in education, sports, or business. The authors of this book provide a clear-cut, common-sense blueprint for what we all need to know to create practice habits that ensure permanent, sustainable results. If you are interested in getting better at anything (or helping someone else get better), then this book, with its excellent collection of techniques and tools, should be your field guide.

The Curiosity of School: Education and the dark side of enlightenment

Zander Sherman. This book was written by someone who was home-schooled as a child. The result is an out-of-the-box look at the history of education. The author reveals all kinds of unexpected information about the people who brought us public schools. Did you know, for example, that Egerton Ryerson (the founder of the Ontario public education system) was also responsible for the Canadian residential school system for Indians? Did you know that both Mussolini and Hitler used their countries' public schools to their own advantage? Did you know that public education was invented in Prussia as a way to mould good soldiers? The bottom line of Zander Sherman's book is that modern public schools kill curiosity and rob learning of enjoyment.

Thinking Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman. The author is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and he is writing about his work that won the prize: the two very different ways our minds work. You probably think that you consider everything you do with your logical, analytical mind and make measured, reasoned choices, but this is not at all true. Most of the things you do are governed by an automatic intuitive thinking system, one that you are not even aware of. Dr. Kahneman calls this System 1. The other way of thinking, System 2, is mobilized when we decide to focus on a task, for example divide 458 by 23. But even the logical and analytical System 2 is sadly vulnerable to many glitches and biases, and Dr. Kahneman lists and explains the many ways we can be led down the garden path by System 2 as well. If you think everything you do is logical and based on rational thinking, you are in for a surprise. The bottom line is: if you're disagreeing with someone or if someone says you're wrong, you ought to seriously consider the possibility that the other guy is right.

Bringing Up Bébé: One American mother discovers the wisdom of French parenting

Pamela Druckerman. The author is an American who moved to Paris and started a family. Once there, she became convinced that the French handle pregnancy and motherhood better than North American helicopter parents. Basically, she says the French back off and, as a result, their kids are calm, patient and polite.

Born to Rise: A story of children and teachers reaching their highest potential.

Deborah Kenny. This is a very personal story, written by the young mother of three small children seeking to make sense of her life amid the despair of her husband's untimely death. Deciding to devote herself to radically reinventing public education, Deborah Kenny began a journey that led her to risk her life savings to open charter schools in Harlem, proving in the process that all children - regardless of socio-economic circumstances - can learn at high levels. The book shares the ground-breaking strategy that took ten years to develop and led to the phenomenal success of Harlem Village Academies.

Mission Possible: How the secrets of the Success Academies can work in any school

Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia. The Success Academies in Harlem have the gaol of educating slum kids to a very high standard and, by all accounts, they are doing this. The school focus on their students' high-order thinking skills, emphasizing the meaning of text, aiming for deep understanding, encouraging meaningful debate, and so on. The schools are doing so much right: enriching their students' vocabularies and general knowledge; offering a rich and attractive environment, providing dedicated and caring teachers, focusing on hard work, making kids fall in love with books - all that sort of thing. There is, however, almost no reference to how the children are being taught to read in the first place, suggesting that beginning reading instruction is of minor importance, and this bias is reflected in the children's lack of reading fluency on the accompanying DVD.

Lost at School: Why our kids with behavioral challenges are falling through the cracks and how….

Ross W. Greene.  This book is designed for the parents and teachers of kids who are constantly getting into trouble in school at school. Most school discipline policies are predicated on the assumption that kids get into trouble because they don't want to be - or can't be bothered to be - good. As a result, all interventions are intended to change the child's motivations and make him or her want to be good. But this book is based on the assumption that kids will do well if they can, and that the reason kids act badly is that they lack of necessary skills to be good. The author proposes the use of a collaborative problem-solving approach to identify and work on the lagging skills.

Radical: Fighting to put students first

Michelle Rhee. The author was a Teach for America teacher who discovered that it was possible to transform the lives of her ghetto students - and then became enraged because most ghetto students are just being written off. Rhee's goal is to ensure that laws, leaders, and policies are making students - not adults - our top priority, and she outlines concrete steps that will put us on a dramatically-different course. Informing her critique are her extraordinary exeriences in education:  her years of teaching in inner-city Baltimore; her turbulent tenure as chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools; and her current role as an education activist. The book chronicles Rhee's awakening to the potential of every child blessed with a great teacher, her rage at the realization that adults with vested interests are blocking badly-needed change, and her recognition that it will take a grassroots movement to break through the barriers to outstanding public schools.

Seven Myths About Education

Daisy Christodoulou.  The author is an experienced school teacher in England, as well as an academic researcher. She shows that education in England is strongly influenced by the following seven myths:  facts prevent understanding; teacher-led instruction is passive; the 21st century fundamentally changes everything; you can always just look it up; we should teach transferable skillls; projects and activities are the best way to learn; and teaching knowledge is indoctrination. These myths are strongly promulgated by education leaders and teacher trainers, and most classroom teachers have no idea that they have been sold a load of horsefeathers. The myths are so insidious that few classroom teachers or parents even question them. Unfortunately, the myths' influence is over-arching and dominate classrooms without anyone even being aware of their presence.

Teacher Proof:  Why research in education doesn’t always mean what it claims, and what you can….

Tom Bennett.  Drawing from a wide range of recent and popular education theories and strategies, Tom Bennett highlights how much of what we think we know in schools hasn't been 'proven' in any meaningful sense at all. Controversial, erudite, and unremittingly entertaining, the author draws a bead on the foolish fads that come and go in schools like a series of angry bees. This book will be an ally to every teacher who's been handed a directive on a platter and been told that the research proves it. Chances are, it doesn't.

The Way I See It:  A personal look at autism & Asperger’s

Temple Grandin.  The author is herself autistic, but very high-functioning - mainly as a result of the measures her mother took when Grandin was a chld. So the explanations and advice in this book come from someone who's definitely been there and done that. Her primary directive to the parents of autistic children is - doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. Temple offers helpful do's and don'ts, practical strategies, and try-it-now tips, all based on her insider perspective and a great deal of research.

Intelligence and How to Get It:  Why schools and cultures count

Richard E. Nisbett. Who are smarter, Asians or Westerners? Are there genetic explanations for group differences in test scores? Can schools eliminate class and racial gaps in academic achievement? Distinguished social psychologist Richard E. Nisbett refutes the idea of intelligence as biologically determined and impervious to culture, with vast implications for the role of education as it relates to social and economic development. This book demonstrates that intellect is not primarily genetic but is principally determined by societal influences.

The Smartest Kids in the World and how they got that way

Amanda Ripley.  The author is a magazine journalist who wanted to find answers for her own children's education, and so she followed three American teenagers who were embedded in three different countries - countries that had recently dramatically improved their education systems, Poland, Finland, and South Korea. The book tells the stories of the students' year away, with many interesting anecdotes. Some of the commonalities in the three countries were that teaching had become more rigorous, parents had begun to focus on the things that mattered, and the children had bought into the promise of education.

A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change

Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.  The authors posit that technological developments are driving a new culture of learning - one that "takes place without books, without teachers, and without classrooms". This new culture of learning comprises two elements: "a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything ,,,,[and] a bounded and structured environemnt that llows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries. To the extent that the authors' claims are correct, there are significant implications regarding the potential of virtual learning to replace traditional schooling. 

Triple Package: How three unlikely traits explain the rise and fall of cultural groups in America

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld.  The authors tackle the puzzling question of why certain groups, for example Asians and Jews, tend to do much better than others - as measured by test scores, income, and occupational status. Their hypothesis is that the successful groups are linked together by three cultural commonalities - a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. The authors do not succeed in proving their hypothesis - the book is far too anecdotal and glib for that - but they do start a conversation that doesn't involve IQ about "why some individuals rise from unpromising origins to great heights, when so many others, facing similar obstacles and with seemingly similar capabilities, don't rise at all". 

Progressively Worse: The burden of bad ideas in British Schools

Robert Peal.  The first part of this book recounts the history of progressive education in England, showing that it is a juggernaut that mercilessly tramples everything in its path - regardless of the accumulating evidence that it is deeply flawed. The second half of the book refutes today's trendy teaching methods and materials, but many other authors (see, for example, the book reviewed above) have already done this and nothing has changed. the bottom line is that, as long as education reforms are entrusted to the educators already in charge, nothing will change.

Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn

John Hattie and Gregory Yates.  John Hattie's 2009 book, Visible Learning, collected the biggest-ever synthesis of what actually works in improving children's learning in schools. With this book, Dr. Hattie partners with cognitive pscyhologist Gregory Yates to build on the original data and show how its underlying ideas and the cutting edge of cognitive science can and should inform classroom teaching. The book basically destroys the theoretical underpinnings of child-centred learning, showing that modern trends have almost no research evidence to justify them.