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The NEW School Rules

The NEW School Rules
6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools

January 2018 | 216 pages | Corwin

Actions to increase effectiveness of schools in a rapidly changing world

To stay relevant and impactful, organizations from the military to government agencies to businesses must constantly evolve. Organizations that cling to rigid structures designed for less dynamic times are stuck in routines that don’t get results.  Instead of withstanding a structure built for the industrial age, how can we empower our schools to be nimble and equipped to prepare their students for this new world?

The NEW School Rules expands cutting-edge organizational and management strategies into an operating system for responsive schools. These principles and practices provide the framework for transitioning rigid, slow-moving institutions into environments of continuous innovation.

  • 6 simple rules create a unified vision of responsiveness among educators
  • Real life case studies illustrate responsive techniques implemented in a variety of educational demographics
  • 15 experiments guide school and district leaders toward increased responsiveness in their faculty and staff

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About the Authors
Introduction: Why We Need New Organizational Practices for Thriving Schools and Students Today
The Promise of Responsiveness

How Responsive Organizational Thinking Evolved

How This Book Is Designed

A Note About Who This Book Is For

CHAPTER 1. PLANNING: Plan for Change, Not Perfection
When Plans Are More Important Than Our Purpose

Planning Without Learning

Control Is Confused With Planning

Build Roadmaps, Not Manuals

Use Cadences and Pivot Points, Not Just Schedules and Deadlines

Encourage Testing, Experiments, and Responsiveness

EXPERIMENT 1. Define a Clear Purpose

EXPERIMENT 2. Delineate Between What You Know and What You Anticipate

CHAPTER 2. TEAMING: Build Trust and Allow Authority to Spread
We’re Dragged Down by the Slow and Unwieldy Legacy of Hierarchies

Land Grabs Are Still Too Common

When Everyone and No One Is Responsible

Clarify the Purpose of Every Team . . . and Revisit It

Build Trust and Address Tensions

Develop Effective Team Habits That Support Distributed Authority

Embrace Dynamic Team Structures That Evolve and End

EXPERIMENT 3. Offer Feedback as Data

EXPERIMENT 4. Team Meeting Protocol

CHAPTER 3. MANAGING ROLES: Define the Work Before You Define the People
Job Descriptions Get in the Way

Role Overwhelm (and Underwhelm)

Put a Role’s Purpose Before Politics

Separate Roles for Personal Clarity and Smarter Decisions

Value Each Voice as a Human Sensor

EXPERIMENT 5. Role Mapping

EXPERIMENT 6. The One-Question Technique

EXPERIMENT 7. Guidelines for Being an Effective Sensor

CHAPTER 4. DECISION MAKING: Aim for “Safe Enough to Try” Instead of Consensus
The Cycle of Meeting Paralysis

The Risks of Delayed Decision Making

The False Promise of Consensus . . . or Defaulting to a Decider-in-Chief

Get Aligned and Clear Out the Noise

Decide on Things You Can Decide On: Make Decisions Smaller

Fail Forward: Approach Planning and Big Decisions as Decision Cycles

EXPERIMENT 8. Three Language Shifts for Decision-Making Discussions

EXPERIMENT 9. Protocol for a Starting Proposal

EXPERIMENT 10. Default to Yes and Defend No—One Decision at a Time

CHAPTER 5. SHARING INFORMATION: Harness the Flow and Let Information Go
A False Sense of Transparency

Information Has an Expiration Date

Accept Ambiguity

Think of Others: Apply the Reverse Precautionary Principle

Ask for What You Need: Apply the Lesson of Self-Advocacy

Plan Communication as a Process, Not an Event

EXPERIMENT 11. Say “Thank You” for Asking

EXPERIMENT 12. The 3 × 3 Rule

“Best Practices” Are Inhibiting Learning and Innovation

There Isn’t Learning Without Listening

The Mindset of Efficiency

Use the Physical Environment to Build a Learning Environment

Promote Optimal Zones of Learning (for Adults as Well, Not Just Kids)

Develop a Learning Mindset: The Stance of Agent, Not Subject

Face the Truth

EXPERIMENT 13. Start a Reflection Practice

EXPERIMENT 14. Create a Habit of Learning Every Day

EXPERIMENT 15. Personal Portfolios

A Responsive Roadmap: Beginning the Shift to New Organizational Practices
Three Dimensions of Change

A Plan for Implementation

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

List of New Rules and Lessons

List of Experiments


A principal can pick this book up and find excellent advice to help her lead a school without micro-managing.

Melissa Wood-Glusac, English Teacher Grades 9 and 11
Thousand Oaks High School, Thousand Oaks, CA

The NEW School Rules is inspirational, easy to read, and realistic. It offers specific, doable steps to help you get started with implementation and make strides toward becoming part of a responsive organization. Ideal for an administrative team book study.

Kathy Rhodes, Principal
Hinton Elementary, Hinton IA

The NEW School Rules tackles organizational change in an interesting and accessible way with adaptable tools and protocols you’ll want to implement in your schools. The desired outcomes are clearly defined through an empathetic design approach.

Jill Gildea, Superintendent
Greenwich Public Schools, Greenwich, CT

Discussions about improving education inevitably gravitate to things—curriculum, standards, assessments, technology, professional learning. In The NEW School Rules, Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales-Black make a highly compelling case that to fundamentally improve education we must focus on process—specifically, the organizational management, structure, and practice that governs how decisions are made. The authors provide school administrators with an accessible how-to guide for implementing the kinds of organizational changes that will lead to real improvements in student outcomes.

JD Solomon, Editorial Director
District Administration Magazine

When we take something as beautiful and life-giving as education, and find that managing the institutions that provide it is soul-crushing, we know something is very wrong. The NEW School Rules shows us the problem, offers an alternative vision of educational administration, and gives us the practical tools to unlock new energy in ourselves and our colleagues. Every administrator should read this book.

Matthew Kramer, CEO
Wildflower Foundation

The NEW School Rules offers a critical and timely framework to ensure that future generations are equipped to thrive in a rapidly-changing world.

Tony Hsieh, CEO, Author
Zappos, Author of Delivering Happiness

Super practical rules for school change with stated problems, lessons, and experiments you can try tomorrow. The NEW School Rules provides guidance on defining the work, encouraging experimentation, sharing leadership, accepting ambiguity, and turning schools into learning organizations. It is a must-read for leaders of teachers, schools, and systems.

Tom Vander Ark, Author
Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World

Every school district should read and digest The NEW School Rules. In it, Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales-Black make a major contribution to how schools should create teams, organize, and plan to profoundly and positively impact students, teachers, and the community.

Michael Horn, Co-Author
Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns

The NEW School Rules is a concrete, battle-tested roadmap for leaders who want to do right by kids by having the courage to help adults embrace change. As a superintendent of ten years (in Newark and New York), I led bold teams that were relentlessly focused on turning around systems that had been failing kids for decades. The central thesis of The NEW School Rules – that districts and schools must fundamentally rethink how they are organized in order to become more responsive, agile, innovative and, ultimately, effective – is spot on. What I appreciate most is that the book is both visionary and evocative – and also practical and instructive.  We must build education institutions that put kids’ needs in an ever-evolving world ahead of everything else.

Cami Anderson, Former Superintendent
Newark Public Schools

The NEW School Rules asks the right questions and poses the right experiments to shift districts and schools to an increased focus on student learning. Kim and Gonzales-Black combine smart practices for running a great organization with the realities faced in many of America’s schools. Preparing every student to succeed in the 21st Century requires that educators work collaboratively to increase the quality of education.

Tim Parker, President

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Anthony Kim

    Anthony Kim is a nationally recognized leader in education technology, school design, and personalized learning. As founder and CEO of Education Elements, he has been involved in helping hundreds of schools change the way they think about teaching and learning. As the author of “The Personalized Learning Playbook, Why the Time Is Now”, Anthony has influenced many educators. He has contributed to many publications on new school models including “Lessons Learned from Blended Programs: Experiences and Recommendations from the Field”. Anthony is a nationally recognized speaker on personalized learning and his work... More About Author

Alexis Gonzales-Black

    Alexis Gonzales Black is an expert in organizational design and change initiatives with deep experience in the education, retail, and technology sectors. A Principal Designer at the global design firm IDEO, she designs and implements new organizational models to fuel innovation, agility, and engagement.      Alexis earned a B.S in biology from James Madison University, and developed a passion for teaching and social justice as a high school science teacher and recruiter for Teach For America. At, Alexis led college recruiting and diversity initiatives while co... More About Author

Also available as a South Asia Edition.

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ISBN: 9781506352763