Effective Schools Part V
Researchers who have studied effective schools have found that such schools possess the following characteristics: (1) a clear sense of purpose, (2) core standards within a rigorous curriculum, (3) high expectations, (4) commitment to educate all students, (5) a safe and orderly learning environment, (6) strong partnerships with parents, and (7) a problem solving attitude (The Trouble with Black Boys, Noguera pg. 36).
Please understand that in this post I will wrestle the urge to follow tangential issues which are far too easy to attend to. My days are full of stories in which students are not all that orderly and more specifically, flat out deviant. That is not an understatement. But that is not where I want to go with the post, so please hang around.
As the list for effective schools grows and develops, we begin to see a shift from the strictly academic to the social environment in which our students must operate. To believe that high academic succes occurs in any environment is narrow-minded at best. Schools must be safe and orderly for optimal learning. While Noguera certainly means this in relation to students, I want to focus on safe and orderly for the teachers.
Many of the current reform systems do not focus on affecting the students' behaviors, especially from a social context. Instead, these reforms, like Marzano's Effective Teaching Strategies, focus on how teachers need to improve pedagogy. I will allow that argument to stand, but would like to use it to further my agenda.
If we believe that student success is directly related to teacher effectiveness--as Marzano and others state, then we can deduce that teacher success is directly related to administrative effectiveness. Therefore, if students succeed in a safe and orderly learning environment, then teachers will succeed equally in safe and orderly learning environment.
What does this mean?
If students should be encouraged to take risks in order to grow as a student, then teachers ought to be allowed to take risks in their instruction--even if that means adhering to administrative beliefs.
If students should not experience bullying from their peers, then teachers ought not to be bullied by adminstrators or Central Office staff.
If students should feel safe in addressing their concerns and needs, then teachers ought to freely and openly examine the system within which they work.
In the end, we need to realize the interconnectdeness of the many parts. A school system is a community, for better and for worse. We struggle with safety. We struggle with creating value for all.
If each individual is doing his or her part to create community, then saftey and order exist.