February 12, 2018
“A bad system beats a good person,” says Wheaton College Associate Professor of Education Dr. Jon Eckert in his new book Leading Together: Teachers and Administrators Improving Student Outcomes. Published in December, the book is the culmination of years of recent research on teaching quality and leadership in Chicago public schools.
Eckert worked alongside Mark Smylie, Professor of Education Emeritus at University of Illinois Chicago, to develop an analytic model of leadership development. He then spent six weeks studying three high schools in the Chicago area—urban, suburban and rural. He also interviewed teachers across the nation to identify themes that could be generalized from his three Chicago case studies.
Eckert highlights three key takeaways from the book that he says may surprise readers:
- People who believe that leadership is more about the work than the person doing the work are more likely to take risks and are more impactful as leaders.
- Amazing leadership work is happening in rural, urban and suburban high schools.
- Leadership work is not about getting people to buy in—without the collective expertise of students, teachers, and administrators, improvement is unlikely to be sustained.
Now that his research has been released, Eckert hopes that motivated teams of administrators and teachers will use the tools found in his book to determine where there are opportunities for improvement in their own schools, and that his book will spark conversations and catalyze this much-needed work.
“Leadership development should change the essential qualities of the school so that its sum is greater than its parts. This is what it means to transform schools in a positive way," he says.
At Wheaton, Eckert has already seen this taking shape in the College’s strategic planning process.
“As part of the College's strategic planning, we are proposing a Teaching and Learning Collaborative that would bring faculty, students, and administration together in support of improved student outcomes,” Eckert explains.
He is also impressed with the College’s excellence in developing empowered, humble teachers through education theory and extensive practical experience. “Wheaton College is an ideal place to prepare educational leaders,” he says.
To learn more about Wheaton’s Education Department, visit www.wheaton.edu/education.