Delve deeper

When reading The Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership, you will note most chapters are based off Merrow’s observations from his career as a reporter. This page showcases some of the pieces that drove this book. They are organized by chapter.

All content is available on the website of Learning Matters, or our YouTube channel.

You can also buy copies of many of these pieces and documentaries:

Chapter 2, “Learning to Read”

This chapter borrows from Learning Matters’ coverage of Paul Vallas in New Orleans, specifically Episode 5, “Targeting Young Readers:”


Learning Matters produced the documentary “Early Learning” in September 1996.

Chapter 3, “Learning to Teach”

This chapter predominantly deals with Teach for America, especially in the turnaround of the New Orleans school system. Learning Matters produced an entire series on ‘The Real World Of Teach For America.’ Here’s one such video:

Chapter 4, “Serious Fun?”

In this chapter, Merrow speaks with Frank McCourt, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and 27-year veteran of New York public schools. In 2000, Merrow interviewed McCourt for NPR; the transcript and full audio are available here, or you can listen below:

The blog post referenced in Chapter 4, about David Felsen, can be read here.

Chapter 5, “Evaluating Teachers”

In this chapter, the Toledo (OH) PAR — Peer Assistance and Review program — is mentioned frequently; Learning Matters produced a piece for PBS NewsHour on the program, as well as two accompanying podcasts. All content is accessible here. Watch the video below:

Merrow’s reaction to the Los Angeles Times article, which he mentions in detail in this chapter, can be found here.

Chapter 6, “Paying Teachers”

The early parts of this chapter refer to an interview with National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel; Merrow spoke with him as part of the Race to the Top series.

The podcast is here:

Elements of the Van Roekel interview are referenced throughout the book.

Chapter 7, “Keeping Teachers”

In September 1999, Learning Matters produced “Teacher Shortage: False Alarm?”, a documentary on teacher recruitment and retention; a related documentary, “Teachers Wanted: No Experience Necessary,” can be bought on our Shop website above.

Chapter 9, “Leadership’s Revolving Door”

In 2003, the city of St. Louis took the bold step of hiring a bankruptcy firm, Alvarez & Marsal, to run their school system for a year. That process is detailed in this chapter, as well as here.

David Hornbeck, the former head of the Philadelphia school system, is mentioned in this chapter. Learning Matters produced “Toughest Job in America,” a multi-part series, on Hornbeck. View Part I:

This chapter also references the New Orleans school system before and after Hurricane Katrina; this was the subject of a PBS NewsHour piece by John Merrow in 2005.

Chapter 10, “Following Leaders”

Learning Matters followed Michelle Rhee and Paul Vallas for three years each as they took over in DC and New Orleans, respectively; in each case, a 12-part series was produced. The profiles of Rhee and Vallas both won several awards.

Here are the first episodes of the Rhee and Vallas series:

Chapter 11, “The School Turnaround Specialist”

Parke Land spent 31 years as a principal at some of Virginia’s highest-performing suburban schools. He took a pay cut to attempt to turn around Boushall Middle School, a struggling institution in Richmond, Virginia.

Merrow and colleagues spent a year with Land, producing a piece for PBS NewsHour. That piece, along with companion podcasts, is accessible here.

Watch Part 1 of the series below:

Delve Deeper Taking Note LM
Click here for blogs, podcasts and videos referenced in The Influence of Teachers. John Merrow blogs at Taking Note. Follow along and join the discussion. LM Books is a division of Learning Matters, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit production company based in New York, and all proceeds from The Influence of Teachers go directly to Learning Matters.