The 2 things educators should read this summer

Woman reading outside

By Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer


As many of us prepare for summer reading, I have been asked once again to make some recommendations. The list we compiled last year remains relevant, but I would like to offer some additional ideas.

A few recommendations

At the top of my book recommendations is FOCUS: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning by Mike Schmoker (2011). This work is a reminder that less is often more. Schmoker asserts that schools must focus on three essential things to ensure optimum student success: a streamlined, essential curriculum; 90 minutes a day of purposeful reading and writing; and effective teaching.

Many want to innovate, and Schmoker (2011) notes that “innovation is fair game,” but only after the essentials are implemented and as long as “innovation does not in any way dilute or distract us from these essentials” (Schmoker, 2011, p. 12). Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360® is an outstanding way to assist with the 90 minutes of daily purposeful reading and writing. To be clear, Schmoker is advising 90 minutes of the activities consist of actual reading and writing. Instruction on reading and writing—activities, worksheets, etc.—would not count in this time.

My next recommendation is an article. Given the increasing interest around personalized learning, it is critical that we all stay current on this initiative. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) recently devoted the March issue of Educational Leadership to the topic of “Getting Personalization Right,” and a great article by Carol Ann Tomlinson (2017) titled “Let’s Celebrate Personalization, But Not Too Fast” is available online.

Tomlinson (2017) notes that we are in “an era when the hallmark is change, the survival mechanism is flexibility” (Tomlinson, 2017, para. 1). She muses on the challenge of defining personalization when “there are currently so many iterations…that it begins to look like everything—and nothing” (Tomlinson, 2017, para. 5). She poses some critical questions so that if schools are attempting to personalize, they can begin with “informed action—action based on full awareness of the complexity of meaningful school change and accompanied by judicious planning” (Tomlinson, 2017, para. 25).

The issue as a whole presents personalization in a very balanced, thought-provoking way. Yes, it’s clearly the way we are moving, but some sharp edges must also be addressed for us to move forward successfully.

What else are you reading this summer?

Summer is a great time to catch up on a few things. What else are you reading this summer? Are you attending any workshops? Have you enrolled in a summer class at your local college? Let us know in the comments below, post on our Facebook, or tweet us at @RenLearnUS!

Looking to make the most of your summer? Our educator resources highlight a handful of our most popular resources—and they’re all free and handpicked just for you. Explore our collection of free webinars, bookmarks, posters, whitepapers, and much more!

Here’s to a relaxing summer with opportunities to consider new ideas and reflect on the basics!


Schmoker, M. J. (2011). FOCUS: Elevating the essentials to radically improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2017). Let’s celebrate personalization: But not too fast. Educational Leadership, 74(6), 10–13. Retrieved from’[email protected]

Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
Gene Kerns, EdD, is a third-generation educator with teaching experience from elementary through the university level, in addition to his K–12 administrative experience. As Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Renaissance, Dr. Kerns advises educators in both the US and the UK about academic trends and opportunities. Previously, he served as the Supervisor of Academic Services for the Milford School District in Milford, Delaware. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Longwood College in Virginia and a doctor of education degree from the University of Delaware. His first publication, Informative Assessment: When It’s Not About a Grade, focused on using routine, reflective, and rigorous informative assessments to inform and improve teaching practices and student learning.


  1. Rita Platt says:

    Read both already! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Mike Schmoker! Here is my favorite article he wrote on how to look at data productively. It has guided all of my work.

    I read CAT’s article too! I read every word from every EL magazine issue.

  2. Lloyd Goldberg says:

    I like the idea of a streamlined curriculum. Too often we waste time with standards that are secondary or just not appropriate for the age/grade. The purposeful reading gets co-opted by the ‘inch deep and a mile wide’ approach to standards.

  3. Christina says:

    Reading again..,, Teach like a pirate!! It never gets old!

  4. Jody Steinhaus says:

    Any books by Todd Whitaker.

  5. Deana says:

    I love the idea of 90 minutes of uninterrupted reading and writing. Hard to do….. our classes are 60 minutes and that includes everything from bell work, checking homework, attendance, actual teaching and questions by students.

  6. Dvawn Maza says:

    Good article!

  7. Carly says:

    Just ordered, “Embedding Formative Assessment” by Dylan Wiliam. The book provides 53 strategies in 5 areas. During a training I learned about one that I really like and plan to use. Instead of having students raise hands to provide and answer to a question. They only raise their hands to ask a question. I also liked grouping students to have them figure out what questions still need to be asked.

  8. P R says:

    Books for educators to read:

    How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students, 2nd Edition
    by Susan M. Brookhart

    Measuring What We Do in Schools: How to Know If What We Are Doing Is Making a Difference
    by Victoria L. Bernhardt

    What Makes a World-Class School and How We Can Get There
    by James H. Stronge and Xianxuan Xu

    I will be attending PD during the week before school starts for students in August.

  9. Brittany Downs says:

    I am going to check out the FOCUS book. I think it could have some helpful information.

  10. Dee Johnson says:

    I will definately be looking over your online tutorials! Already have 5 ebooks downloaded…let the summer of 2017 reading begin!

  11. Nicole Erwin says:

    I’m reading Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Mazimizing Your Impact by Judi Moreillion

  12. Renee Graham says:

    Thanks for the tip. Looks like excellent reading material.

  13. Melissa Robles says:

    Great information. I will check out the Focus book and look for ideas there!

  14. Carol Roberts says:

    Very interesting!

  15. Connie Reffick says:

    Fantastic Articale! I’m a new teacher, so reading about a different approach to learning gives me a new insight for learning.

  16. Megan Tillery says:

    I asked a teacher I really admire for some book recommendations so I am reading “The Skillful Teacher: Building Your Teaching Skills” and “Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty” this summer.

  17. Jason says:

    I agree with most titles and authors already listed.

    Teach Like a Pirate is an easy read and should be on everyone’s list.
    “Why Don’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?” Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7-12 by Bruce Lesh is a few years old but pretty good for Social Studies teachers or anyone curious about the teenage brain.
    Leading Change in Your School by Douglas Reves is another older title (mainly for administrators)
    Sparking Student Creativity by Patti Drapeau

  18. Kelly Barr says:

    I am reading the Handmaid’s Tale this summer and enjoying some out of state PD.

  19. Lisa Capon says:

    Interesting Article

  20. Liana Ferrer says:

    Great articles and suggestions.

  21. Margarita Ortiz says:

    I want to read a couple of chapter books that I would like to read with my 4th grade class this year.

  22. Ami K. Edwards says:

    Awesome article with good ideas.

  23. Andrea says:

    Love the article Rita shared. Will also be reading information/articles on the Positivity Project we are implementing next year.

  24. Sandra C. says:

    Progress-Monitoring Comprehension Assessments Grades K-2

  25. Kelsie Haggard says:

    I will have to find and read these books! I love learning about new resources!

  26. Laura Q says:

    This article on personalization captured my attention because students should be viewed as individuals. Too often it’s a cookie cutter approach where all students are expected to be on the same level, pace and mentality for learning. Great article!