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Closing the Attitude Gap: How to Fire Up Your Students to Strive for Success

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In this inspiring and thought-provoking follow-up to his 2009 best-seller Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life, Baruti Kafele makes the case that the "attitude gap" that often affects underperforming students can only be closed if educators first help students develop the will to strive for excellence. According to Kafele, educators can achieve remarkable results by focusing on five key areas:

* The teacher's attitude toward students
* The teacher's relationship with students
* The teacher's compassion for students
* The learning environment
* The cultural relevance of instruction

Replete with practical strategies and illustrative anecdotes drawn from the author's 20-plus years as a teacher and principal in inner-city schools, Closing the Attitude Gap offers a wealth of lessons and valuable insights that educators at all levels can use to fire up their students' passion to learn.

111 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2013

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About the author

Baruti K. Kafele

14 books15 followers

A highly-regarded urban educator in New Jersey for over twenty years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, NJ, he was selected as the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, he was a New Jersey State Teacher of the Year finalist, and a recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence.

As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the turnaround of four different New Jersey urban schools, including "The Mighty" Newark Tech, which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to national recognition, which included U.S. News and World Report Magazine recognizing it three times as one of America's best high schools.

One of the most sought-after school leadership experts and education speakers in America, Principal Kafele is impacting America’s schools! He has delivered over two thousand conference and program keynotes, professional development workshops, parenting seminars and student assemblies over his 34 years of public speaking. An expert in the area of “attitude transformation,” Principal Kafele is the leading authority for providing effective classroom and school leadership strategies toward closing what he coined, the "Attitude Gap.”

A prolific writer, Principal Kafele has written extensively on professional development strategies for creating a positive school climate and culture, transforming the attitudes of at-risk students, motivating Black males to excel in the classroom, and school leadership practices for inspiring schoolwide excellence. In addition to writing several professional articles for popular education journals, he has authored 10 books, including his six ASCD best sellers - The ASPIRING Principal 50, Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?, The Principal 50, The Teacher 50, Closing the Attitude Gap, and Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & in Life. His next book – The ASSISTANT Principal 50 will be released in Summer, 2020.

Principal Kafele is married to his wife Kimberley, and is the father of their three children, Baruti, Jabari and Kibriya. He earned his B.S. degree in Management Science/Marketing from Kean University and his M.A. degree in Educational Administration from New Jersey City University. He is the recipient of over 150 educational, professional and community awards which include the prestigious Milken National Educator Award, the National Alliance of Black School Educators Hall of Fame Award, induction into the East Orange, New Jersey Hall of Fame, and the City of Dickinson, Texas proclaiming February 8, 1998 as Baruti Kafele Day.

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5 stars
61 (26%)
4 stars
71 (30%)
3 stars
72 (30%)
2 stars
22 (9%)
1 star
7 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for Cathy.
487 reviews1 follower
October 31, 2017
This book reinforces my teaching instincts. It makes me want to throw scores and tests and data right out the window with both hands... or at least drop them to the very bottom of my list of priorities. If only the "powers that be" could understand. What a step forward for educating our children that would be!
Profile Image for Jennifer Mangler.
1,397 reviews13 followers
October 7, 2017
Kafele’s reflection questions have given me a new way to critically examine my practice. Even more importantly, they’ve given me a way to critically examine myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. I was hoping there would be more concrete strategies in this book, but I think that might be part of my problem. It would be great if there was a thing I could do that would produce instant results. But life doesn’t work that way. I have to constantly be more reflective about myself and my students and be willing to try new things as a result of my reflection.
Profile Image for Tena Edlin.
803 reviews
August 23, 2017
Quick, powerful read from a fantastic speaker we heard at the Climate & Culture Summit in Des Moines. One thing that really stuck with me was that our intentions in the classroom really don't matter if students perceive something else. Their perceptions of us and what we do are really what matters, because that's their truth.
Profile Image for Kate.
121 reviews3 followers
June 4, 2019
Required reading- said things I agree with, but superficial and purely anecdotal. And I struggled with the tone of his writing. Not many positive reviews of teachers.
Profile Image for Jenn.
188 reviews11 followers
November 4, 2019
Many of Principal Kafele's ideas are spot-on, but he never progresses from the idea stage to the actual 'how-to' stage of his thesis. I must have empathy for my students. I must believe in them. I must show them who they are and where they are from in my lessons. BUT HOW? Reading this was like being coached in baseball to get better at hitting by just hitting the ball. No analysis of current practice, no demonstration of how to hold the bat, no explanation of how follow-through affects the distance the ball travels. Just...hit the ball. Just...close the gap. I am inspired to do better, but I still need concrete steps.
Profile Image for Olivia S..
133 reviews13 followers
July 5, 2020
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. Overall, it felt much like the opening remarks at a conference; a lot of soundbites and takeaways, but not a lot of practical "here are examples and steps to doing what I'm saying". For example, he discusses classroom mission statements early on in the book. He then mentions that he will go more in depth with examples in chapter 5. There's a lot about making sure they are posted and that the students have the classroom mission statement memorized, but doesn't provide any examples of mission statements. Even just a few from teachers in the schools he was a principal of (even from his own time as a teacher) would have been helpful.

I don't necessarily disagree with much of what he says, but he does seem to play into the "teachers are martyrs" and the "savior complex" which are major issues with the educators of today.

He uses a lot of examples and anecdotes from his own life, including the education of his own children. One thing I strongly disagreed with is the concept that setting and demanding high expectations, and our belief in their abilities will lead to all honor students. I think as a culture we need to reevaluate what a "C" means. It is average, and it is not necessarily bad to get a "C" grade.

I do think there are some good reflective questions for teachers to think about their own practices, and if I were just beginning my journey with reading about equity in schools, this would be a decent choice. Overall, I think there are more current books out there (this was published in 2013) that provide more concrete steps to achieving equitable education.
Profile Image for Kosta Dalageorgas.
28 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2022
A book which argues that changing student attitude is what is needed to ensure student excellence and success. The chapter headings are the following:

1) How Climate and Culture Shape Attitude
2) Attitude Toward Students (Do I Believe in Them?)
3) Relationship with Students (Do I Know Them?)
4) Compassion for Students (Do I Care About Them?)
5) Environment for Learning (Do I Provide My Students with an Environment of Excellence?)
6) Relevance in Instruction (Do I Realize Who My Students Are?)

Kafele argues that it is critical for each classroom and school to have mission and vision statements along with goals on how to achieve student success. Students should be informed of said goals and take an active role in their learning. Ultimately, nothing less than high expectations is acceptable. He argues that ultimately teachers are the key determining factor for student success or failure in the classroom.

A short book that provides plenty of thought, Kafele’s conclusions will be debated. How much student success is driven by intrinsic or extrinsic motivation? Are families and communities along with all school teachers and staff fully invested in all of his recommendations? Who ultimately determines student success?
Profile Image for Robert Stevens.
158 reviews2 followers
April 7, 2020
This book was read during a book study at the school where I teach. This book has some good components such as the reflective questions and can be motivating in places, but it is not very practical and tends to live in the ideal world that education books often find themselves.

Nonetheless, closing the attitude gap is important and is a necessary step to closing the achievement gap.
Profile Image for Christopher.
5 reviews
January 24, 2018
This book gave me some needed motivation to change my practices as a teacher. Some of his suggestions are great and I am going to implement them as best as possible. Some will be difficult to implement based on my school and population of students.
Profile Image for Melanie.
126 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2021
This was a motivating book, and I am benefitting a lot from the reflective questions. I don't think there's anything here that educators haven't heard before, but it's always good to reflect and remind ourselves about why we're in the classroom and what we are about.
Profile Image for Heather.
339 reviews4 followers
March 12, 2019
Good for motivation and reflection, but not a lot of practical info.
2 reviews
March 18, 2021

I have read many books, and this is the best one ever! I read this book in less than a day. I could not put it down!!
Profile Image for Maria.
163 reviews
May 27, 2021
Inspirational and reinforces my own views on education. A tiny book but full of lots of reflection points. Definitely one I am going to have to keep going back to after the initial read
1 review
July 30, 2021
Good book

Great book to refresh your thoughts on why you are teaching in the first place. Change your attitude to close the gap
Profile Image for Brandon White.
35 reviews1 follower
October 3, 2015
This book has highly digestible information for educators who are trying to uplift their struggling classrooms and school communities, particularly ones predominantly of color. Through his language and subject matter it is clear that the author had in mind teachers who would struggle with understanding white supremacy, privilege, and racism. He carefully walks the line between scaring them away and giving the fluff. I respect it, but for those who have been involved in this kind of work for some time this will most likely be a read that affirms and re-articulates their foundational beliefs about closing attitude and achievement gaps in struggling schools.
207 reviews2 followers
February 8, 2016
This book has a lot of interesting points once you get past the author's ego. I also felt that he repeated a lot of his information too many times in his book. Even though he kept saying he wasn't focusing on just blacks or black males, I felt that this book is exactly who he was writing about. I did love some the strategies that he suggested and think that would change the student's outlook on their place in life and at school.
Profile Image for Desiree.
24 reviews8 followers
September 26, 2014
This book is written in a highly engaging voice, and touches on the reflective and relational work that educators can and must do to create a culture and climate of excellence in their classrooms. I thought of my students (past, present) throughout. A good companion to Marzano's Art and Science of Teaching and Ladson-Billings' Dreamkeepers for new teachers and student teachers.
Profile Image for Abby.
63 reviews
September 20, 2015
He had a lot of good points but I would have liked to see more strategies for how to implement his ideas and more flexibility on his claims.
Profile Image for Kristen.
333 reviews
July 28, 2014
Read for Summer Reading 2014 through the school district.
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews

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