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Chapter 1

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Chapter Excerpts

A Quote from Chapter 1: Living in a World of Unfulfilled Promises

A “society of unfulfilled promises” is a phrase that dramatically expresses some of the beliefs underlying this book, yet is one with which not everyone can identify. At a recent academic conference, when my doctoral student introduced our joint paper with the above quotation, a member of the audience interrupted asking, “What do you mean by unfulfilled promise?” We were surprised but glad the person had asked for clarification. Our intent was to build upon what we believed to be quite obvious—the fact that some people, by virtue of an accident of birth (poverty or privilege, skin color, location) have more or fewer opportunities than others. Some groups of people in our society are more likely to be incarcerated, to fail to graduate from high school or to attend college, and some are less likely to be hired and so forth. The promise of equal opportunity for everyone has yet to be realized—and we were certain this was something everyone recognized and cared about. The fact that this was and is not the case provides additional support for the need for this book. (p. 2)

A Quote from Needed: A New Approach

Transformative leadership (not to be confused with transformational leadership) is a critical approach to leadership grounded in Freire’s (1970) fourfold call for critical awareness or conscientization, followed by critical reflection, critical analysis, and finally for activism or critical action against the injustices of which one has become aware. Hence, it begins with awareness—of the strengths, weaknesses, and challenges of our society and of our school system. It requires critical reflection of for whom the system is working and for whom it is failing, of who is advantaged, privileged, and always included and who is marginalized and excluded. Once problem areas of inequity are identified, transformative leadership calls for critical analysis of beliefs, values, practices, and policies that need to be changed in order to promote equity. Finally, transformative leadership calls for action—action to redress wrongs and to ensure that every child who enters into an educational institution has an equal opportunity to participate fully, to be treated with respect, and to develop his or her capabilities. (p. 11)





Transformative Leadership in Education - Amy

Supplemental Chapter Resources


Danny is a 10-year-old boy who lives with his father and brother in a homeless shelter where there is no space to do homework. Fortunately for Danny, he was able to participate in a program called “School on Wheels” in California (http://www.schoolonwheels.org/) and, through this program, connected with a caring and creative tutor. This tutor took him to purchase craft materials (using her own money) and helped him fulfill the requirements of school projects without having to purchase pre-made components such as an Alamo, landscaping materials, historic figures, and so forth. It came as a surprise both to her and to me (the author of this book) that an extensive market has developed around the various projects identified in state curricular documents for different grade levels. This, of course, raises issues of social justice and equity and calls for transformative educators to rethink what they require of students.

As an example of the challenges these students face, students in Danny’s class were once asked to complete a US state project. Each student had to prepare a report related to a state and present it to the class. As part of the presentation, students were expected to bring representative food to share with the whole class. Conscious of his family’s fiscal situation, Danny selected Florida, because he thought he could afford to bring orange juice for his classmates; however, to his dismay, the teacher informed him that orange juice was not adequate to represent the state.

In a time of increased fiscal disparity and homelessness, it is essential that public schools not place additional burdens on families—burdens that frequently comprise barriers to the achievement of some students. However, this and other similar situations suggest the need for intensive professional development to be initiated by a transformative leader in order to make teachers more aware of the consequences of school projects. No student should be unable to fully comply with requirements for a project because of his or her family situation. And no student should have to put the family’s finances at risk in order to comply.

Information Related to Homelessness

McKinney-Vento Act

For information see http://center.serve.org/nche/downloads/briefs/reauthorization.pdf

It is essential that educators understand the provisions of current legislation, such as the McKinney-Vento Act that include provisions of equity for homeless children. The Act requires schools to enroll homeless children without complete documentation, to provide transportation to and from their temporary residence to their previous school, and to ensure that all costs associated with schooling are covered.

Extent of Homelessness

The following is an excerpt from a dissertation related to homelessness (Warke, 2011).

The National Center on Family Homelessness (2009) estimates that over the course of a year, “between 2.3 and 3.5 million people will experience homelessness, of which between 900,000 and 1.4 million will be children and 42% of these children are under the age of six” (p. 1). Additionally, the statistics state “that children without homes are twice as likely to experience hunger as other children, twice as likely to experience health problems, as well as repeat grades in school, or drop out of school” (National Center, 2010 p. 1).

In 1996, “families with children comprised 34% of the homeless population, and the number is growing” (National Center, 2009, p. 1). Of the families that are experiencing homelessness, the National Center on Family Homelessness (2009) reports that 84% are female-headed; additionally of these female mothers, 53% do not have a high school diploma. The National Center (2009) states that “within a year, 41% of homeless children will attend two different schools; 28% of homeless children will attend three or more different schools” (p. 2). These children are “highly mobile and at least 20% of homeless children do not attend school” (National Center, 2009 p. 2). In addition to the statistics, research supports “children in poverty have difficulty with achievement as well as difficulty with maintaining friendships due to the frequent moving” (National Center, 2009 p. 2).

Additionally, Love (2009) reports that in the United States “with foreclosures and layoffs particularly high in communities of color, the black and Latino middle class are joining the burgeoning ranks of the homeless” coupled with the effect that “children of color now constitute a majority of the homeless”(p. 1). Moore and colleagues found that “Black and Hispanic children were more than twice as likely to live in poverty in 2007 as non-Hispanic white and Asian children” (2009, p. 2). In fact, in 1996, 55% of sheltered people in families were African-American (National Center, 2009, p. 7).

You may access the full dissertation through a library that subscribes to proquest.com or by sending a request to the author, Dr. Shields.


Warke, A. (2011). Learning from families experiencing homelessness: How school leaders can make a difference through transformative leadership. Unpublished dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


As indicated in the text, VUCA is described in Wikipedia as “an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The common usage of the term VUCA began in the late 1990s and derives from military vocabulary and has been subsequently used in emerging ideas in strategic leadership that apply in a wide range of organizations, including everything from for-profit corporations to education.” For more information, see the article accessed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatility,_uncertainty,_complexity_and_ambiguity.

The article goes on to suggest that “The capacity for VUCA leadership in strategic and operating terms depends on a well-developed mindset for gauging the technical, social, political, market and economic realities of the environment in which people work. Working with deeper smarts about the elements of VUCA may be a driver for survival and sustainability in an otherwise complicated world”—an idea that is reflective of the premises of this book as well.

Similarly, as suggested in the book, you may want to refer to the slideshow by Denise Caron located at http://www.slideshare.net/dcaron/its-a-vuca-world-cips-cio-march-5-2009-draft.


Margaret Wheatley first came to the attention of leadership theorists with the publication of her 1992 book Leadership and the new science, subsequently republished in 1999 and 2006. Utilizing accessible, layman’s terms on what she called the “new sciences” of quantum mechanics, field theory, chaos theory, and so forth, her focus is on the ways in which patterns, information, and relationships can provide the impetus for organizational renewal and success. Her hope is that finding a “simpler way” to think about organizations and leadership will provide a way forward for those hoping to engage in renewal and social change. You can access all of her books and videos at http://margaretwheatley.com/. Wheatley is also the founder of the Berkana Institute, an organization dedicated to addressing global crises through the power of people and communities; this organization may be accessed at http://www.berkana.org/.