Spotlighting the Strengths of Every Single Student

Why U.S. Schools Need a New, Strengths-Based Approach

by Elsie Jones-Smith, PhD


There are some 60 million students in the United States, but the rate for graduation from high school in 2007 was 68.6 percent—a proportion below that of most developed nations. Strengths-based systems could help American students better compete against their peers in an increasingly globalized and challenging world.

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Cover image for Spotlighting the Strengths of Every Single Student

August 2011


Pages 285
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Current Events and Issues/Education

This book explains how a teaching system focused on identifying and stoking each student's strengths—rather than concentrating on deficits—can bring remarkable academic improvement and achievement.

It's a familiar and seemingly logical model: to improve performance, identify weaknesses and target these problem areas. Could doing the opposite be a better way? Licensed clinical psychologist Elsie Jones-Smith argues that strengths-based systems are indeed more effective—not just in social work, where the philosophy became popular; or in the business world, where the concept is increasingly being embraced—but in the academic setting as well.

Spotlighting the Strengths of Every Single Student: Why U.S. Schools Need a New, Strengths-Based Approach explains how and why a system that focuses on students' strengths enables kids to be self-confident, goal-directed, and to possess a stronger sense of self-efficacy, self-control, and academic achievement. Jones-Smith also explains how such a system spurs appreciation and advancement of multiple intelligences, which in turn gives students the ability to address weaknesses—on their own. Another plus: this approach has also been shown to generally reduce school disciplinary actions and increase class attendance time.


  • Contains 25 teaching strategies that are part of the strength-based program
  • Offers powerful vignettes to illustrate key points


  • Details the five core elements of successful, strengths-based schools
  • Contains suggested activities for parents to push for a school to use this strengths-based system
  • Relevant to school professionals, parents, and general readers alike
Author Info

Elsie Jones-Smith, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with doctoral degrees in clinical psychology and counselor education. She is counselor educator and president of the Strengths-Based Institute, which provides consultation to organizations dealing with substance-abusing youths and with youths experiencing difficulties in school and with violence. Her published works include Praeger's Nurturing Nonviolent Children: A Guide for Parents, Educators, and Counselors; Counseling and Psychotherapy: Toward an Integrative Approach; and Group Counseling: Theory and Process. Jones-Smith is a Fellow of two divisions of the American Psychological Association, a Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology, and former professor at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA; Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY; and Boston University, Boston, MA. She served 18 years as an education consultant for violence prevention in New York schools.

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