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Jim McGuire Headshot

What Makes a Good School

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One paragraph doesn't tell the story of a book. Similarly, one test doesn't tell the tale of a school. The recent spotlight on school quality should help ensure a better education for all students. However, using one tool, and one as limited as a one or two day test doesn't accurately portray schools. Although test scores are important, rarely do you hear about examining all the factors that make a school successful.

These characteristics make a school good:

1. Students Want to be There
Effective schools have a warm climate. Students feel welcome and know that the staff cares about them. Although there is pressure to perform, it comes in a way that promotes learning, with an expectation that students will excel and the support is provided to make it happen.

2.Highest Expectations For the School, Teachers and Students
Only the best is good enough. Quality is expected, and nothing less is acceptable. Passion for excellence is a driving force each and every day. A good school has an involved staff working together, pushing themselves and their students to be the best. Failure is not an option for the teacher or the students.

3. Dedicated Teachers
The best teachers work to improve their ability to teach. They read and explore the techniques used by others in a never-ending effort to better themselves and their skill. Effective teaching demands that the teacher be knowledgeable in the subject area. The teachers must have a detailed understanding of what is being taught.

4. Effective Discipline
Discipline should not be an issue. Students must respect others and failure to do so cannot be tolerated. Students must understand school and class rules and expectations, and adhere to them. When discipline is necessary, it is not vindictive, but just a consequence when a student does not do what is required.

5. There is a Variety of Instructional Techniques
No two classes, or two students are identical. An effective school has teachers that understand this and differ instruction to best help students be the successful. Key concepts are presented in ways to enable visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners grasp it. Students are actively involved in learning with a variety of opportunities to grasp key concepts.

6. Individualized Instruction and Approaches to Students
Students' abilities and needs are different. To effectively teach all students, the school staff must understand this. The teaching and interactions with students must reflect the needs of each, with the understanding of each as an individuals.

7. Leadership
The building principal must have the respect of students, parents, and staff with a vision, high expectations, and the ability to help others succeed. This person must be able understand people, and motivate them, creating a positive attitude throughout the building. Successful schools have a sense of trust built on the back of an honest and caring leader.

Many factors go into helping a child become a productive adult, and there is no way one assessment a year can measure success or failure. The fact that so many people believe that one test on a couple of mornings each spring can determine school quality, teacher quality, and student learning shows an alarming lack of understanding in what makes a good school.

This factory model of assessment would have been great 50 years ago, when schools were modeled after and trained students for work in factories. However, that day has long passed. Leaders in education need to look at what it takes for students to succeed and help create schools to educate the students of today and tomorrow.