’Tis the season for “best of 2013” lists. As an avid consumer of annual best-of lists, I selfishly created the retrospective of my preferred 2013 education reads in hopes that my colleagues on the Collaboratory would share theirs as well. Make a list, check it twice, and add your suggested reads to the comments section.

Best of 2013

  1. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism — [Mic dropped]. Buy this book before you shut down your computer tonight.
  2. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity — I haven’t finished all 900+ pages yet, but the detailed portraits of families raising children with exceptionalities—everything from dwarfs and prodigies to schizophrenics and rape victims — are heartwarming and heart wrenching. If there is one book I wish I would have read before ever entering the classroom, this is it.
  3. One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School — The most vocal and informed student in K-12 education cuts through decades—perhaps centuries—of dogma to get at the core of what holds schools back. Warning to the ‘reformers’: teachers are not the problem, and testing is not the answer.
  4. Trusting Teachers With School Success: What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots We’ve all thought about it, but the teacher leaders profiled by Kim Farris-Berg and Edward Dirkswager actually did it. In starting and maintaining their own schools, these shot-calling teachers fostered professional cultures indicative of high-functioning organizations, all while keeping a foot firmly planted in the classroom with students. [For those playing the Teacherpreneurs video game at home, that’s Boss Level].
  5. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way  Holster that tomato! Though glossing over some of the more vexing challenges of K-12 education in the US and describing silver-gilded solution bullets, Amanda Ripley did for education what Tom Friedman did for business in The Lexus and the Olive Tree: convinced a large number of readers that progress beyond our borders doesn’t wait on the next election cycle or Sputnik moment.
  6. This Book Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking As curator of this brilliant collection of essays, John Brockman asked the brightest minds in the world to answer “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” Mission accomplished. There’s more in here than can possibly be digested in one reading, but your mind will be stretched to places you’ve never imagined.

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2014:

  • Teaching in High Gear: My Shift Toward a Student-Driven, Inquiry-Based Science Classroom — With a National Board portfolio entry on science due in the spring, this will be my first read of 2014. Drawing on the very public transformation of her classroom and practice, Marsha Ratzel chronicles the not-always-easy journey to a community where students design, execute, and evaluate their own learning.
  • This is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education — From the author who described what Jay-Z could teach the world about remixing education, Jose Vilson’s analysis will ruffle frumpy power suits within and beyond the Beltway. I’m expecting a provocative, entertaining read with over a hundred pop culture references.
  • Clubhouse Clash — As envoy to the standard playground detente in most elementary schools, I anticipate plenty of text-to-self connections between the pages of Justin Minkel’s first work of fiction. If his blogs (this one, and this one) are any indication, readers are in for captivating storytelling and hard-hitting lessons.
  • Whole Novels for the Whole Class: A Student-Centered Approach — Copy-machine convos about last night’s episode of “The Bachelor” are no longer safe: Ariel Sacks is the new show in town. While basal texts may have suppressed student interest in reading with bland plot lines and absurd literary devices, Sacks restores literature to its rightful place: novels in the hands of students. [The version of Island of the Blue Dolphins our 5th graders read ended with Karana and her brother Ramo stuck on the island by themselves. How’s that for a conflict/resolution lesson?!]

So, what did I miss? Your recommendations are eagerly anticipated!

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