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Are You In a Pickle?

Lessons Learned Along The Way: Students’ Performance And Achievement Gaps

By: Patricia L. Pickles, Ph.D.


A timely, insightful assessment of American education, with an emphasis on eliminating the “achievement gap.”


With all the attention paid to economic malaise, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the American education system is also in crisis (some of it caused by underfunded school systems). Pickles, a lifelong professional educator who holds a doctorate in reading and education administration, thinks most school system administrators find themselves “in a pickle,” and so she lays out a plan “for achieving at high levels and eliminating the gap among subgroups and across socioeconomic lines.” Pickles admits her work is an outgrowth of her dissertation about reading achievement, which she wrote two decades ago, but she’s careful to note that she has broadened her scope to focus on systemic change. First, the author offers a historical overview to put current challenges in perspective and then addresses three key areas—“Creating Schools and Districts for Excellence” (specific strategies and tactics for improving students’ performance and closing achievement gaps), “Educational Leadership and Professional Relationships” (a discussion of leadership principles applicable to teachers and school administrators) and “Building External Partnerships” (how and why partnerships are useful in meeting schools’ challenges). In the book’s final section, Pickles presents “A Future Platform for Education,” in which she offers numerous specific suggestions, keyed to instructional leadership, professional relationships and families, partners and the greater community. There is no shortage of ideas for improvement, but unlike some works that may reach for lofty, unachievable goals, Pickles grounds her suggestions in research and the practicality of her considerable experience as a classroom teacher, principal and superintendent of schools. Pickles correctly focuses the majority of her attention on low-performing schools, suggesting that “if we can fix these schools, then we can fix all schools.” This book will undoubtedly find its largest audience among forward-thinking school administrators who continue to believe that they have the ability to measurably impact the quality of education.


Pickles’ message may be most appropriate for administrators, but teachers, school boards and concerned parents will also benefit from reading this book as it will remind them that the welfare of students should always be the first priority in educational reform.


Kirkus Review





Are You in A Pickle? Lessons Learned Along The Way: Students’ Performance
And Achievement Gaps
Patricia L. Pickles, Ph.D.
AuthorHouse (2012)
ISBN 9781456796587
Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views (3/12)

Educators serving in many different roles will find this book engaging and useful. Dr. Patricia L. Pickles has been around the “education block” and offers helpful insights that allow educators to learn from her vast experience. I found “Are You in A Pickle?” to be helpful in my role as a new private school owner.

Early on in the book, Dr. Pickles shares a few life lessons learned. While all of them were interesting, I found one to be particularly powerful. She says “To prepare students for today’s workforce, learning must be relevant.” This is very true because the needs of our society are constantly evolving, and education will also need to evolve to remain relevant. This one life lesson is the main reason I left public education and started my own school.

Dr. Pickles provides valuable data that shows the reality of education and offers suggestions and advice for improving our current status. In the book, there is a table showing the kindergarten readiness for different socioeconomic groups, and the importance of learning in the early years. Dr. Pickles also asks some great thought-provoking questions in the book. One in particular that struck me was “At the elementary level, are multiple intelligences embraced to determine and identify the unique gifts in young people?” What are we doing for our students that will help them not only learn the skills necessary for the future, but to support them in strengthening their personal talents and gifts?

Dr. Pickles said, “A manager ensures that things are done right, but a leader does the right thing.” As a school owner and leader, I found this statement to be one of the most powerful in the book. She goes on to talk a little about a variety of great leaders in our country and world, and I was incredibly inspired to improve my own leadership skills.

Throughout the book, Dr. Patricia L. Pickles gives heartfelt insight along with facts to make “Are You in A Pickle?” a must read for educators in general, and school leaders in particular. I plan to keep this book handy as a reference when I need a pick-me-up.





Are You in a Pickle? Lessons Learned Along the Way:
Students’ Performance and Achievement Gaps

Patricia L. Pickles, Ph.D.
AuthorHouse, 191 pages, (paperback) $21.35, 978-1-4567-9658-7
(Reviewed: September 2012)

Not every school can be a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, or can it? Patricia L. Pickles, an award winning educational expert and acclaimed speaker, believes that even schools facing serious socio-economic challenges can succeed, even during the current educational crisis.

Pickles, a former principal and superintendent in Illinois and Texas, suggests ways to close the “achievement gap” and move schools forward. Improvement of student performance, she says, rests in the internal health and collaboration between administrators and school staff along with external partnerships forged between parents and community. Also, careful tracking of test scores, analysis of the causes behind student failure to perform up to nation-wide standards, and time for self-evaluation are all key to “creating schools of excellence and equity.”

Pickles outlines specific methods to help, delineating curricular, instructional, and assessment strategies for educators. When administrators and teachers design professional development and in-service training opportunities together, teacher effectiveness is greatly improved. Pickles is also an advocate of academic team planning and peer coaching for teachers in tandem with strong principalships. She provides multiple behavioral models for effective leadership along with illustrative tables, charts, and useful templates. At the heart of her book is the importance of inclusiveness and equal access to standard resources and opportunities for schools not meeting national performance levels.

Practical, engaging, and student-centered, Pickles’ educational philosophy is coupled with a “call to action” to create effective “platforms” for developing new legislation and enlightened future educational leaders. Without increased funding for special-needs learners, extended-day programming, or intervention services for substance abuse and mental health, schools in trouble will continue to be at risk; unfunded mandates, poorly trained teachers, and teacher shortages are all problems described in her clarion call.

Pickles’ thorough book inspires school districts and professional educators to utilize their full sphere of control for turning schools into “world-class” institutions of excellence.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.




The Mindquest, REVIEW OF BOOKS
Noteworthy Books
Early Spring Edition, 2013
Lightword Publishing selected noteworthy books from recent submissions by University Press, Small Press and Self Published Authors for review. The submitter incurred no charge or obligation for a recommendation and review, but did pay a small reading fee. Exceptional books from the smaller publishers and self-published authors are usually disregarded by large mainstream media sources.


by Patricia L. Pickles, Ph.D.


Subject The book is an eye- opening evaluation of our educational system focused on how to eliminate the "achievement gap" of student performance. The highly recognized author is a lifelong educator including teaching, superintendent of schools, and principal. She has appeared on CNN and provides presentations and training for educators, associations, government and communities. Noteworthy: Dr. Pickles sagaciously explains our educational crisis, including a historical summary. Parents "in a pickle" about their children's needs and performance in school will find out how to get involved. Parents, administrators, educators and school boards will discover a model for system overhaul, and how to help solve the crisis.


Details: Patricia L. Pickles
Ph.D. POB 3155, Pflugerville,
TX 78691. 191 pgs., $21.35.
ISBN: 978-1-4567-9658-7



Dear Dr. Pickles:

" I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important issue and I share your concerns. The American health care system faces a myriad of complex challenges. The right kind of reform will emphasize individual choice and allow patients, their families, and their doctors - to make their own decisions. You may be certain that I will keep your views in mind as these issues are discussed."


John Cornyn, U.S. Senator



"You have touched my heart and life in so many ways.  I thank God for allowing you to teach me and share your life and story with me.  You helped me open up to share my son's story."
Landia Robinson
F2F - Austin, Texas

"Very nice Patricia Pickles, and one book that everyone should read!"
Earl Jones
Stafford, Arizona