This unique book tells the story of a select group of schools and teachers who have managed to beat the odds in terms of improving elementary students reading achievement. Originating with the CIERA School Change Project directed by Barbara Taylor and David Pearson, it was subsequently expanded to include the work of other research teams doing similar work. It combines large scale studies of effective schools and teachers (Part I) with case studies of individual schools and teachers who have successfully transformed research findings into situation-specific strategies appropriate to their schools and classrooms (Parts II and III). The book's distinct contribution is showing that no matter how consistent the research findings on effective school and classroom practice, groups of teachers must improvise their own situation-specific programs and practices. In short, they must be able to create variations on a common theme. Key features of this outstanding new volume include: *Integration of research and cases--One cannot fully understand research-based general principles without knowing how they play themselves out in specific settings. Similarly, one cannot fully understand cases without seeing the commonalities across different schools and classrooms sharing similar goals. This book provides both perspectives. *Diverse cases--The schools and classrooms depicted in this book are urban, rural, and suburban; poor and middle class; and English-only and bilingual. Rather than telling readers how to beat the odds, it provides them with a wide variety of cases from which they can extrapolate to build their own customized teaching programs and practices. *Summarizing section--The final section contains a summary of research on effective schools and teachers and a concluding chapter by Gerry Duffy and Jim Hoffman in which they reflect on the book's content and possible directions for future research. The book is targeted to both in-service elementary teachers and literacy students in advanced college courses.