Column: Characteristics of effective schoolsWORTHINGTON — More than 30 years ago, a team of researchers studied schools that were considered effective. These schools were effective in educating all students regardless of their backgrounds.
By: Tammy Timko, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — More than 30 years ago, a team of researchers studied schools that were considered effective. These schools were effective in educating all students regardless of their backgrounds. The research found that these schools shared seven characteristics:
1. Clearly stated and focused mission. There are clear goals, priorities and accountability procedures that the staff, parents and community understand. The staff is committed to achieving its mission.
2. Positive communication between school, home and community. Parents and the community understand and support the mission of the school and are given opportunities to play important roles in helping the school achieve its mission.
3. Instructional Leadership. The principal is the “leader of leaders” as he/she encourages all of the adults in the school to take an active role in helping the school to achieve its mission.
4. Safe and Positive Environment. The school has a positive environment were desirable student behaviors are consistently taught and expected. Students feel free from harm.
5. High Expectations for All Students. The staff believes that all students can master the essential school skills. The staff believes that they have the tools and ability to help students master these skills.
6. Frequent Monitoring of Student Progress. Student achievement is monitored often and instruction is changed to fit the students’ needs.
7. Maximize Learning Opportunities. Teachers have an understanding of what essential skills are, grade by grade and subject by subject. Students are actively engaged in learning activities that will help them to master these skills.
Still today, these seven characteristics are important to student achievement. Each year, an Effective Schools Conference is held near Phoenix, Ariz. This year will mark the 26th conference which draws the nation’s most respected speakers and presenters. These presenters will guide participants in applying the seven characteristics of effective schools in their own districts.
The District 518 School Board and the District Staff Development Committee have been working to focus our district’s mission through goal setting and long-term strategic planning. Student achievement is central to this mission, and we believe a commitment to the seven characteristics of effective schools will help all of the students we serve to achieve at their highest potential. District 518 will be sending a team of 15 people, including teachers, administrators, school board members and community leaders, to this conference in March.
The funds that will be used to support this training come from money that is set aside by the state for staff development. Minnesota law requires school districts to set aside 2 percent of its basic revenue for staff development. This money must be used in the training of staff members. It helps to pay for in-services, workshops, and other staff trainings. This money also supports the mentoring of new teachers by paying a small stipend to veteran teachers that guide and encourage the new teachers in effective teaching practices. In addition, the District Staff Development Committee pays small stipends to members of the staff that take on the role of District Curriculum Chair. The curriculum has been divided into nine curricular areas, each lead by a Curriculum Chair. These people are instrumental in reviewing and monitoring our current curriculum and in leading the rest of the staff in researching, designing, and implementing high quality curriculum to best meet the needs of our student body.
Currently, District 518 has staff development dollars that they have carried over from past years. Part of these carry-over dollars along with some of the money that was set aside this school year for staff development, will fund training in the seven characteristics of effective schools, while still leaving enough dollars to continue to support other important training needs and programs.
Those that will be attending the Effective Schools Conference have made a three year commitment that includes pre-conference instruction on the characteristics of effective schools, attending the conference, group-work sessions, promoting the mission of District 518 and participating in a district leadership team. By this commitment, participants will help to support a framework for continuous improvement that will guide District 518 in meeting the needs of all its students.
Tammy Timko is District 518’s coordinator of teaching and learning.