Shared Leadership, Equity, and Evidence
Transforming Sanchez School
Communication and Language, Special Education
This book is the result of a 20-year collaboration between a school principal (Raymond R. Isola) and an educational researcher (Jim Cummins). Together, they document how the Sanchez Elementary School successfully implemented evidence-based instruction to transform the learning experiences of students from a low-income and linguistically diverse community in the Mission District of San Francisco.
Contains Companion Materials
00410 978-1-934000-41-0
2020 216
Available Stock
This book is the result of a 20-year collaboration between a school principal (Raymond R. Isola) and an educational researcher (Jim Cummins). Together, they document how the Sanchez Elementary School successfully implemented evidence-based instruction to transform the learning experiences of students from a low-income and linguistically diverse community in the Mission District of San Francisco.

The Sanchez School story shows the positive impact of using shared leadership and the results-oriented cycle of inquiry to implement school-based policies designed to activate students’ talents and intellectual power within the classroom. Over the course of 13 years, from 1999 to 2012, test scores improved dramatically. The school’s average annual academic growth was more than 20 points, much more than the 11-point average growth for elementary schools in California.

When Dr. Isola became principal, the school was performing in the lowest quartile of California’s Academic Performance Index. Contrary to top-down formulaic approaches, Principal Isola used a horizontal leadership system that engaged all stakeholders—including teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, parents, community members, businesses leaders, and students themselves—in the project of improving student learning and school reform.

Key focus areas of the transformation process:
  1. Development of dynamic learning communities that relate empirical research of what works for diverse students, schools, and communities to the concrete challenges faced at Sanchez School
  2. Shared leadership and results-oriented cycle of inquiry to build capacity for effective learning across generations within the school community
  3. Multi-dimensional roles of the school principal, including instructional leader, resource manager, social architect of learning, and community organizer/activist
  4. Evidence collection, including student achievement data, performance-based assessments, teacher leadership development, paraprofessional career ladder, and parent education and activism

By sharing the experience of the Sanchez School, the authors hope to open dialogue between administrators and staff and encourage reflection on their own school’s improvement strategies. Readers will be inspired to see the possibilities for linguistically and culturally diverse students from low-income communities; current notions will be challenged and guidance offered for important changes that will renew readers’ schools. Core principles of the Sanchez renewal experience:
  • Build relationships of trust and respect among administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, students, and parents.
  • Develop shared leadership structures and processes that offer opportunities for all staff to grow professionally and share in the responsibility for promoting student achievement.
  • Implement instruction that connects to students’ lives, respects their multilingual talents and cultural knowledge, and enables them to use multiple modes of representation (e.g., language, music, visual art) to express and expand their identities.
  • Support strong parental and community engagement in the shared enterprise of educating children.
  • Focus on students’ physical, emotional, and social well-being in order to remove potential impediments to learning.
  • Provide preschool that generates curiosity, habits of inquiry, and literacy engagement.
  • Use curriculum-focused assessment that monitors students’ academic growth as a means of informing instruction and, when necessary, intervention.
  • Structure the school grounds as educational resources that enhance students’ socioemotional wellness, physical fitness, nutritional awareness, and overall environmental literacy.
Chapter 1: Educators Improve Schools

Chapter 2: A Brief History of Education Reform and Its Scientific Basis

Chapter 3: Education Reform at Sanchez School: A Principal’s Account

Chapter 4: Shared Leadership and the Role of the Principal

Chapter 5: Accountability That Connects Instruction and Assessment

Chapter 6: Pre-Kindergarten: A Foundation for Academic Growth

Chapter 7: Enhancing Educational Quality through School and Community Partnerships

Chapter 8: Expressing the Self: Integrating the Arts across the Curriculum

Chapter 9: Lessons Learned: Insights from One School’s Experience

Chapter 10: Biliteracy in the Translanguaging Classroom





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Anita Caduff, University of California San Diego - March 4, 2022
Transforming Sanchez School provides a detailed account of how school leaders addressed linguistically diverse students’ various needs while cultivating their talents by providing a rich and broad curriculum. Inspiring and relevant, this book exemplifies the possibilities feasible despite challenges due to, among other things, legislations infused by corporate reform narratives, inequitable funding, and demoralizing accountability systems. To address these challenges and engage in school improvement processes, shared leadership structures, dynamic learning communities with collaborative decision-making processes, evidence-based teaching practices focusing on the whole child, and the support of strong parent and community engagement were vital to the success of the school....
Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA - March 2, 2022
In this detailed analysis of the Sanchez School, Isola and Cummins describe the processes and strategies employed by educators to transform this school into one capable of addressing the varied and complex needs of its students. Educators will appreciate the detailed nature of the analysis presented. Instead of simply offering platitudes and “research-based” practices, the authors take a practical approach in describing the obstacles the school encountered on its journey toward progress and how these were addressed. Thoughtful, insightful, and accessible, this book will be a useful resource and a helpful guide to educators who genuinely seek to make a difference
Richard Carranza, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education - March 2, 2022
Transforming Sanchez School vividly documents the power of educators to promote academic achievement by closing opportunity gaps faced by low-income linguistically and culturally diverse students. Rooted in a philosophy of shared leadership, over a 13-year period the school developed and implemented evidence-based systems, structures, and policies that generated teacher agency, affirmed students’ identities, and expanded parent and community engagement. Unlike many schools across the nation pressured to raise standardized test scores, Sanchez School refused to narrow the curriculum, instead focusing on enrichment through the arts, literacy engagement, and expansion of students’ bilingual skills. Educators and policymakers alike will find insight and inspiration in the remarkable story of Sanchez School.
James Dierke, Executive Board Member of The American Federation of School Administrators - March 2, 2022
Raymond and Jim have outlined many successful, and some time-honored approaches, to including urban intercity bilingual learners in the modern learning process. Their book covers a vast amount of acquired knowledge that brought about effective and positive changes to the educational institution. This new look at education for all was the starting point for teachers, administrators, parents, and community partners in bringing about a total and cooperative student learning process at Sanchez Elementary School. This total team effort resulted in a wonderful transformation of the learning process at Sanchez Elementary School and is a model for other schools to follow. This was a bottom-up, not top-down, approach to educational change.
Lorenzo Ortona, Consul General of Italy in San Francisco - March 2, 2022
In his 13 years as principal at San Francisco’s Sanchez Elementary School, Raymond R. Isola opened up an important dialogue between educators and parents who believed in preparing their students to cultivate their talents and nurture their imaginations. Throughout Isola’s tenure, co-author and educational researcher Jim Cummins observed Isola’s community of educational equity and how Isola became a trailblazer in introducing Italy’s inspiring Reggio Emilia approach to a California public school. A powerful, educational story of how schools can transform from blank canvases to works of art, as told by an Italian American who sought to close gaps experienced by low-income, socially marginalized students.