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The Devil Is in the Details

The Devil Is in the Details
System Solutions for Equity, Excellence, and Student Well-Being

March 2020 | 216 pages | Corwin
Develop equity, excellence, and well-being across the whole system! The world is troubled!

We need to combine a moral imperative and a system transformation to survive for the better. Education is crucial to our future but needs to play a more direct role in shaping our future. The Devil is in the Details shows how we can re-think the education system and its three levels of leadership—local, middle, and top—so that each level can contribute to dramatic turnaround for education and society. The focus is on examining details to ensure effective actions are taken, rather than assuming large pronouncements and policies will drive change. Readers will find: 

• Details and analysis about successful systems in California, Ontario, and Australia 
• Ideas for how leaders at all levels can take steps to begin 
• Vignettes, actions and strategies that illustrate how to address equity, excellence and well-being

With the goal of transforming the culture of learning to develop greater equity, excellence, and student wellbeing, this book will help you liberate the system and maintain focus. 

Chapter 1: The Nature of the Beast
The March of Evolution

The Dramatic Toll of Rising Inequity

The Serious Deficiency of Current Policies


Chapter 2: The Emergence of System Solutions
The Limits of Complexity

The Phenomenology of Good System Change

Transition Time

Leadership From the Middle


Chapter 3: The School: The Leading Edge of Change
Living Locally

The New Moral Imperative




How Does a School Improve in These Ways?


Chapter 4: The Middle: Fuel and Glue
Who Is “the Middle”?

Successful Districts: Still in the Minority

More System Change

Guidelines for the Middle


Chapter 5: The Macro: Direction and Liberation
Ontario, Canada; California, United States; Victoria, Australia: Good Start-Ups at Different Places in the Learning

Beware of (Seductive) Distractors

Layered, Connected Autonomy


Chapter 6: Where Do We Go From Here?
Details, Details, Details

System Change

The Global South and the Global North

A Necessary Convergence

Conclusion: As Human as You Get

About the Authors

By taking both bird's eye and ground-level view of systemic change, Michael Fullan and Mary Jean Gallagher offer trenchant insights into why a relentless torrent of top-down policies have failed to transform education systems and why countless grassroots, transformative solutions have failed to take root and spread across the system. Drawing upon research and real-world experiences, Fullan and Gallagher show us a way forward, one that encourages leaders at all levels of the system to start with the details—small moves that can transform students’ daily learning experiences—and build improvement plans and education policies up from there. Anyone who shares Fullan and Gallagher’s sense of urgency for providing students with opportunities for deeper learning would do well to read and apply the lessons from this book.

Bryan Goodwin, President and CEO of McREL International and author of Building a Curious School: Restore the Joy That Brought You to School
McREL Internationa

This important new book provides clear guidance to schools and districts on how to pursue equity and excellence through connected autonomy; a strategy aimed at supporting schools through collaboration and capacity building.  The authors present several concrete examples to show how such a strategy is working in some schools already.  They argue that we have a moral imperative to make sure that other schools adopt such an approach.  Given the challenges that educators must take on to prepare young people for an increasingly uncertain future, I couldn't agree more.  

Pedro A. Noguera, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Education
Faculty Director, Center for the Transformation of Schools
UCLA Graduate School of Education & Informational Studies

Interested in where to go next in education? Then read this book. Fullan and Gallagher are seized with the bigger challenges confronting humanity and rightly make the case for our schools to lead the way forward. More than that, they give us the roadmap. Finally, some genuine hope in an anxious time.

Dalton McGuinty
Former Premier Province of Ontario

Michael Fullan and Mary Jean Gallagher join forces in this must-read new book. They argue that we are at a pivotal time of dramatic change in the world and we need to act differently to determine whether the future will be better or worse for humanity. Fullan and Gallagher weave together challenging, complex and concerning issues with concrete strategies, actions, ideas and positive hope in an essential and very practical book for everyone committed to ensuring equity, excellence and well-being through education.

Carol Campbell, Associate Professor
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

A powerhouse of a book that challenges conventional wisdom about system change in all its forms and guises. Fullan and Gallagher call upon all levels in the system to work collectively to 'let the light in' so that there is a new moral imperative shaping the future of education and humanity.

Alma Harris, Professor
Swansea University School of Education

Prepare to be stretched, challenged, distressed, conflicted and thoroughly inspired. Fullan and Gallagher provide a clear-eyed analysis of the future of humanity if societal inequalities persist. The Devil Is In the Details tackles the biggest challenges of the day. But also spurs us all to take on-the-ground action using the power of equitable education to promote a better world for us all. This is a giant book with tangible solutions--a must read.

Robin Avelar La Salle, PhD
Chief Executive Officer, Orenda Education

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS is a powerful, relevant, and timely book for leaders seeking dramatic and positive change. Fullan and Gallagher provide a clear systems’ framework and an abundance of insightful examples of inspiring success. I envision all local, middle, and top-level leaders reading and applying the principles outlined to unlock the promise of equity, excellence, and the potential of all students.

Ed Manansala, EdD
El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools

This book addresses the real complexity of system reform. It helps the reader to “walk in the shoes” of those at different levels of the system and the challenges they face.  Rather than peddling simple solutions or formulas, it shows the way to long-term system improvement through a deep understanding of how systems and people behave and what can be done to build capacity and make change stick. I loved it.

Steve Munby, Education Consultant
Visiting Professor at UCL London Institute of Education Chair, Teaching Awards Trust

At a time when the word equity is everywhere in educational circles, Fullan and Gallagher remind us that inequity is actually increasing at an alarming rate. The Devil Is In the Details makes the convincing case that we - all of humanity - now live in very perilous times, and whether we thrive, or continue our race to mass extinction, is a matter that resides in the hands of our young people…they are our only hope. Details blazes inspirational territory in seamlessly linking the core building blocks of equity, excellence, and student well-being for systems changers to use at whatever levels they find themselves engaged.

Glen Price
Former Chief Deputy Superintendent, California Department of Education, Founder, Glen Price Group

This is an inspiring book for all those who care about education and our collective future. Details convinces us of the need to adopt equity, excellence and well-being at the heart of education system change; and it provides us with a model to do this: systems thinking and concrete actions that schools, the middle tier and governments and policy makers can take through what they call connected autonomy. After reading it, the status quo is no longer an option. Their book gives us food for thought and for action to shape our education systems so they can become a force of positive contributions to a better future.

Beatriz Pont, Senior Policy Analyst
OECD Directorate for Education

Sample Materials & Chapters

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

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ISBN: 9781544317977
CAD$ 47.95

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