How Do Schools Get Better? (Part 7)

jarmoluk / Pixabay
jarmoluk / Pixabay

Doing the right thing…knowing the right thing to do. This is a question that we ask ourselves everyday as school leaders. Richard Elmore, professor of Educational Leadership at Harvard University, published a paper with this title through the NGA Center for Best Practices (can be found here). He offers suggestions and practical advice on how schools can get better. After reading Elmore’s article graduate students in the Dordt College School Leadership program blogged similar advice, written specifically for Christian school leaders. Our sixth guest blogger is Dave Schenk.  David lives in Sioux Center, IA and is currently completing his Master’s Degree in Education Leadership from Dordt College.

Recently a wonderful mentor of mine passed away, he was a simple yet profound man who served as both a teacher and school administrator. The year that I worked with him in Statesville, NC he said something to me about education that I will always remember, he said: “son, the key thing to remember is that schools are about boys and girls”. Far too often educators and administrators forget this basic truth and the quality of the educational environment for boys and girls is simply not what it should be.

There are two fundamental questions that consistently need to be asked when seeking to improve the education of our young children, “is this glorifying to God?” and “is this better for boys and girls?” As a parent of four children, I have consistently tried to do those things that were best for them (albeit inconsistently and erringly) even if though at times those things weren’t always pleasant for them or for me. A school needs to take a similar approach by writing a mission statement that considers what is best for young people and honors God and then only do those things that support the mission of the school.  I am going to assume that a genuine Christian school will consistently be seeking to do only those things that bring glory to God and I will focus on those things that SHOULD exist in schools that will make education better for boys and girls.

  1. Hire & retain teachers that care and want to improve TOGETHER. “The right kind of continuous, structure teacher collaboration improves the quality of teachers and pays big, often immediate, dividends in student learning and professional morale in virtually any setting.” Administration must create an environment where collaboration amongst teachers is fostered and expected (professional learning communities). Teachers need to be passionate about working with young people and eager to share the subject matter, they should love learning alongside their students.
  2. Use technology effectively! Teachers and students need to be trained to use technological resources in a worthwhile manner. 1:1 programs that use laptops almost exclusively for word processing is not helpful for students.
  3. Help students learn to read and write, WELL! “Authentic literacy, rightly acquired, profoundly affects students’ life and career options, their understanding of the world, their facility with concepts and ideas.” Generous amounts of reading, writing, and argument are essential to the development of truly literate and educated students.”
  4. Aim High! Expect and work towards achieving great things together as a school and equip students and teachers with the tools to hit the target. Students generally want to succeed and will rise to the challenge.
  5. Great leadership is essential.  Schools need effective servant-leaders that create a culture of cooperation, encourage appropriate risk-taking and confront mediocrity at every turn.

All quotes taken from:  Schmoker, M. (2006). Results now: how we can achieve unprecedented improvements in teaching and learning. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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