ORIGINS OF THIS BOOK We began conceptualizing this text around 1995, with the original intent of writing a follow-up to Craig Richards's 1987 bookMicrocomputer Applications for Strategic Management in Education.In the early stages, we began to realize not only how much the microcomputer tools of leadership had changed, but also the extent to which the general context for school leadership and the concept of leading complex dynamic organizations had changed. Since 1995, an explosion of available electronic information and a proliferation of relatively inexpensive technologies for accessing, analyzing, and presenting data have occurred. Numerous books have been introduced that attempt to teach school leaders simple techniques of data analysis and presentation using available technologies such as spreadsheet, database, and statistical analysis software. Although we believe it important that individuals have the opportunity to develop these skills, we believe it equally important to provide amental modelanddisciplined approachfor using such tools. The mental model we present is the Ecological Model of Leading and Learning. Our use ofecologicalis not to be confused with a literal definition of "environmental studies," but it is to be seen as a way of understanding schools and school systems as complex, interconnected ecological systems. Our disciplined approach iscollaborative improvisation.Whether jazz improvisation such as that performed by the small acoustic ensembles of the 1940s on 52nd Street in New York or baroque improvisation as performed by the great organ masters of the early 1700s, one element is critical to mastery of the art--practice. The great improvisers practiced for hours on end--decomposing music; learning to physically and musically perform a plethora of patterns, sequences, and tones; then recomposing and improvising with their newly expanded vocabulary. Through the exercises in this book, we hope to provide students with comparable opportunities to practice decomposing and deconstructing data on schooling systems. Further, we hope that students may develop a sufficient analytic vocabulary to begin to recompose, reconstruct, and improvise with their new-tools. ORGANIZATION OF THE BOOK This book is organized into six parts: Part I--Setting the Stage:Part I provides an introduction to the ecological model and the improvisational approach. In chapter 2 we provide students with a tool--thepolicy options brief--for organizing and distributing information on their organization. Part II--Using Data to Describe the Schooling Context:In Part II we introduce the student to a series of analytic tools in Microsoft Excel for organizing and presenting descriptive analyses of data. Each chapter concludes with a narrowly focused data set and a series of questions to be addressed with the data. This part concludes with a more comprehensive data set on international investment in education and student outcomes. Students are encouraged to write a policy brief on their findings from the data. Part III--Searching for Relationships in Education Data:The third part introduces the student to more advanced analytic tools in Microsoft Excel. The primary emphasis is studying relationships between variables. Tools include group comparisons, scatterplots with trend-line analysis, and bivariate and multivariate regression analysis. The end of each chapter contains a narrowly focused problem set that applies the tools presented in the chapter to data ranging from student test scores across classes to state-level data on school funding and student outcomes. At the end of part III, we provide a complex and more comprehensive data set including various school resource measures and student outcomes measures. Students are provided guidance on the processBaker, Bruce D. is the author of 'Ecology of Educational Systems Data, Models, and Tools for Improvisational Leading and Learning', published 2003 under ISBN 9780130977717 and ISBN 0130977713.