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School Culture and Leadership

Overview:
The school culture is equitable and inclusive, and it embodies the school's foundational core values and beliefs about student learning. It is characterized by reflective, collaborative, and constructive dialogue about research-based practices that support high expectations for the learning of all students. The leadership of the school fosters a safe, positive culture by promoting learning, cultivating shared leadership, and engaging all members of the school community in efforts to improve teaching and learning.

Indicators:

Indicator 1:  The school community consciously and continuously builds a safe, positive, respectful, and supportive culture that fosters student responsibility for learning and results in shared ownership, pride, and high expectations for all.

What to Look for:

§         student, parent, and teacher handbooks reflect high expectations for all students and communicate high expectations for all

 

§         discipline and attendance policies illustrate student responsibility and high expectations for all as well as a supportive culture

 

§         comparative annual data on disciplinary actions and incidences of vandalism reflect downward trends

 

§         the school focuses efforts on and can cite specific programs or activities that are related to improving school climate (e.g., tolerance and diversity programs)

 

§         the school can cite specific programs to document that students feel a sense of pride and ownership in their school, e.g. participation numbers for school or community clean-up days, wide-scale participation in academic programs, portfolio nights, science fairs, as well as athletic and performing arts programs

 

§         conversations with students reveal that students believe much is expected of them in terms of learning, goal-setting, behavior, respect for others, and participation in school and community


Indicator 2:  The school is equitable, inclusive, and fosters heterogeneity where every student over the course of the high school experience is enrolled in a minimum of one heterogeneously grouped core course (English/language arts, social studies, math, science, or world languages).

What to Look for:

  • in accordance with current educational research, efforts to group students more heterogeneously and to eliminate tracking of students are evident
  • student transcripts will include information related to the number of ht=heterogeneously grouped courses each student has taken over the course of the high school experience in core academic courses (English Language Arts, social studies, math, science, world languages)
  • a school’s Program of Studies will identify which courses are heterogeneously grouped
  • student grouping patterns ensure that all students, regardless of ability level, have challenging learning experiences which enable them to achieve the school’s learning expectations
  • committees which are responsible for making decisions related to future grouping practices use current research and practice in making those decisions
  • inclusion models and other special education strategies have been investigated to ensure that all students, including those with learning disabilities, have equal access to the same curriculum and are assisted in achieving school-wide expectations
  • there is diversity of enrollment in all courses so that students considered to be part of a minority population are not homogeneously grouped 

Indicator 3:  There is a formal, ongoing program through which each student has an adult in the school, in addition to the school counselor, who knows the student well and assists the student in achieving the school’s 21st century learning expectations.

What to Look for:

§         to foster personalization and reduce the sense of anonymity felt by many high school students, the school has a formal program which provides regular contact to connect each student with an adult member of the school community  in addition to the school counselor

§         each student is assigned an advisor/advocate/mentor (in addition to the school counselor) who is charged with supporting every aspect of the student’s educational experience (e.g., advocates meet regularly with their students, generally in groups of ten or so, throughout the year and often will be assigned to work with the same students for all four years; advocates routinely call parents to keep them informed about the progress of their students in meeting all learning expectations;  advocates serve as the prime facilitator of a personal learning plan for each student; and advocates develop a rapport with students so that students feel comfortable in seeking their assistance

§         advocates are generally teachers and other professional members of the staff (e.g., the principal, guidance counselors, nurse, curriculum leaders), but secretaries, custodians, and other staff members can act as advocates (i.e., to enhance their roles as members of the school community who are concerned about students and to reduce the ratio of students to adult advocates)

§         the school provides additional opportunities for adult members of the school comm8nity to get to know students well (e.g., adults collaborate with students on school-related projects; adults serve as mentors for senior projects; teams of teachers work with the same group of students)


Indicator 4:  In order to improve student learning through professional development, the principal and professional staff:
  • engage in professional discourse for reflection, inquiry, and analysis of teaching and learning
  • use resources outside of the school to maintain currency with best practices
  • dedicate formal time to implement professional development
  • apply the skills, practices, and ideas gained in order to improve curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

What to Look for:

o       a collaborative spirit of reflection and inquiry exists within the faculty evidenced by  ongoing conversations, both formal (e.g., within departments and across departments, professional learning communities, critical friends groups, data teams, common planning time, meetings of teams, peer-coaching sessions, study groups, etc.) and informal (e.g., at lunch tables, over coffee in the faculty room, in the hallways between classes, etc.)

o        teachers routinely engage in conversations about learning expectations, consistent grading standards, quality of student work, instructional practices, and curriculum revision

o       teachers have available professional readings and routinely discuss current research and best practice

o       a faculty reads the same professional book and has a book-club style discussion of its merits

o        teachers seek each other out for  discussion about topics related to teaching and learning

o       school leaders promote discussion of student learning and well-being by sharing literature on best practices, providing regular opportunities for professional development, providing meeting time for teachers

o        teachers visit other schools to observe programs of interest

o        teachers attend conferences and programs which enhance their teaching strategies in specific content areas

Indicator 5:  School leaders regularly use research-based evaluation and supervision processes that focus on improved student learning. 


What to Look for:

 

§         the supervision/evaluation process is thoughtfully designed and plays an integral role in instructional improvement (i.e., the process is not a perfunctory set of classroom visits and observation reports); it is based upon research into effective approaches for improving teacher practice

 

§         school leaders have had training in research-based supervision and evaluation processes as well as whole school practices

 

§         the process used is clearly linked to the improvement of student learning and meeting the needs of all students

 

§         data is gathered which demonstrates that instructional improvement results from the supervision/evaluation process

 

§         supervisors/evaluators (including any peer mentors) are well-trained in the particular model being used


Indicator 6:  The organization of time supports research-based instruction, professional collaboration among teachers, and the learning needs of all students.

What to Look for:

§         thoughtful review of the master schedule occurs at least every five years, if not annually, to ensure that it best supports the school’s core values and beliefs about learning

§         variations to traditional six, seven, and eight period schedules of 45-55 minute periods have been considered to allow longer blocks of instructional time to promote student engagement, in-depth exploration of topics,  project-based learning

§         the schedule supports implementation of effective instructional practices (e.g., collaborative learning, team-teaching, etc.)

§         the schedule supports alternative assessments (e.g., performances, authentic applications, debates, field experiences)

§         the schedule allows for the flexible use of time

§         there is formal time set aside on a regular basis for teachers to collaborate (e.g., in PLC groups) and with the use of a protocol for discussion, for the review of student work, for data analysis

§         alternatives to departmental content-based structures are considered if they can better address the goals of interdisciplinary curriculum design and teaching or other school-wide learning expectations

§         the organization of the school’s curriculum supports the schools core values and beliefs about learning

§       the size of the school supports and enhances student personalization; when appropriate, smaller learning communities (e.g., teams, clusters, houses, pathways, academies) are implemented   as a means of breaking the larger school into more personalized units

 §        students who can be better served in school programs that meet in the afternoon, evening, summer, or during a longer school year or who need additional practices to achieve learning
           expectations are provided these opportunities

Indicator 7:  Student load and class size enable teachers to meet the learning needs of individual students.
 

What to Look for:

§         student loads enable teachers to meet the needs of individual students, to provide sufficient personalization, and to ensure student achievement of the school-wide expectations

§         class size policies and actual class size numbers ensure that sufficient personalization and individual attention can be provided to develop creative options that will alleviate the problem (e.g., schedule changes, course integration, resource reallocation, team-teaching, teacher aides, etc.)

§         when class sizes and student loads are excessive, efforts are made to develop creative options that will alleviate the problem (e.g., schedule changes, course integration, resource reallocation, team-teaching, teacher aides, etc.)

 §        class sizes allow each student to learn in a safe atmosphere where students can frequently participate and take risks                                                                                                                                  

Indicator 8:  The principal, working with other building leaders, provides instructional leadership that is rooted in the school’s core values, beliefs, and learning expectations.

What to Look for:

§         the principal is a visible force in the building, modeling and “living” the school’s core values and beliefs about learning

§         important decisions made by the principal are made in consultation with other building leaders, reflect the school’s core values and beliefs about learning, support every student’s learning, and are perceived as consistent and fair

§         the primary focus of the principal’s time is on teaching and learning (e.g., formal and informal conversations with teachers and students are about teaching and learning; faculty meetings are focused on teaching and learning with agendas and discussions that promote improved teaching and learning; the principal spends time in classrooms watching teachers teach and students learn;  school leadership team meeting agendas are focused on teaching and learning goals and priorities)

§         the principal shows students that their learning is paramount (e.g., academic success is highlighted more frequently than athletic success; students are interviewed for their perspective on the quality of teaching they are receiving; the principal asks random groups of students to share their portfolios for review)

§         when major issues arise in the school, the principal addresses the faculty and students to express concern and to ensure that communication is direct and consistent

§         the principal ensures that a safe and orderly environment exists and takes necessary steps to deal with conflicts, student threats, outside forces that may jeopardize the health and welfare of students

§         the principal provides opportunities for other leaders in the school to assist in promoting examples listed earlier in this section

§         stakeholders can cite examples of communications, activities, decision of the principal’s instructional leadership that relate to the school’s core values and beliefs about learning

§         teachers and students are very clear about the school’s core values and beliefs

Indicator 9:  Teachers, students, and parents are involved in meaningful and defined roles in decision-making that promote responsibility and ownership.

What to Look for:

§         the principal models accessibility and openness to feedback from students, faculty, staff members, and parents

§         the principal offers regular coffee hours, lunch time chats, and other forums to allow the voice of all constituents to be heard

§         formal mechanisms are in place to provide decision-making roles for students, teachers, and parents (e.g., faculty councils, steering committees, community councils, school improvement teams)

§         surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, and other vehicles are used regularly to collect data/feedback from all constituents which become part of the decision-making process

§         parents, students, and staff members serve on committees that advise the principal and make decisions that improve teaching and learning

§         when group decisions are made, the faculty as a whole, joins on board to support a decision

Indicator 10:  Teachers exercise initiative and leadership essential to the improvement of the school and to increase students’ engagement in learning.

What to Look for:

§         teachers and administrators, other than the principal, serve on and are actively engaged in leading committees that review and revise curriculum, assessment strategies, instructional practices, and school organization practices

§         teachers and administrators, other than the principal, take the initiative to maintain currency through professional development, collaboration, research

§         teachers and administrators, other than the principal, act as curriculum coordinators, department leaders, instructional coordinators, team leaders, and in other formal roles that support school improvement

§         teachers and administrators, or then the principal, regularly recommend new initiatives or ideas that are implemented and will improve the overall climate and life of the school

§         teachers and administrators are more often found offering solutions to concerns rather than lamenting the facts of problems the school might face

Indicator 11:  The school board, superintendent, and principal are collaborative, reflective, and constructive in achieving the school’s 21st century learning expectations.

What to Look for:

§         minutes and video-tapes of school board meetings illustrate cooperation and collaboration, good listening and speaking skills, between members of the school board, the superintendent and school leaders

Indicator 12:  The school board and superintendent provide the principal with sufficient decision-making authority to lead the school.

What to Look for:

§        the formal job description of the principal defines clearly the responsibilities related to teaching and learning and ensuring the school community’s core values and beliefs about learning are upheld

§        interviews with the principal, faculty,  parents, the superintendent, and school board indicate the principal has been given authority by the superintendent and school to make important decisions about the school

§       district leaders and the school board seek the wisdom of the principal around important policy decisions and with regard to budget formulation

§       the principal supports teaching and learning needs and provides focus on the school’s learning expectations so that all students can achieve them


R AT I N G  G U I D E

School Culture and Leadership

 

A rating of DEFICIENT is appropriate if any of the following exist: 

  •   **There is no formal, on-going program through which each student has an adult in the school, in addition to the school counselor, who knows the student well and assists the student in achieving the school’s 21st century learning expectations  
  • The school is not equitable and inclusive if over the course of the high school experience every student is not enrolled in any heterogeneously grouped core course (English/language arts, social studies, math, science, or world languages)
  •  The principal, working with other building leaders, fails to provide instructional leadership that is rooted in the school’s core values, beliefs, and learning expectations
  • The school is not safe 

**The Commission expects that a member school will have a formal plan in place no later than January 2014 regardless of where the school falls in the decennial cycle.

 

A rating of LIMITED is appropriate if the school has a formal, on-going program through which each student has an adult in the school, in addition to the school counselor, who knows the student well and assists the student in achieving the school’s 21st century learning expectations; is minimally inclusive and equitable; the principal marginally provides instructional leadership that is rooted in the school’s core values, beliefs, and learning expectations; and the school is safe, but:

  • Every student over the course of the high school experience is enrolled in only one heterogeneously grouped core course ( English/language arts, social studies, math, science, or world language)
  • The school board and superintendent fail to provide the principal with the sufficient decision-making authority to lead the school 


A rating of ACCEPTABLE is appropriate if the school has a formal, on-going program through which each student has an adult in the school, in addition to the school counselor, who knows the student well and assists the student in achieving the school’s 21st century learning expectations; is equitable and inclusive; the principal, working with other building leaders, provides instructional leadership that is rooted in the school’s core values, beliefs, and learning expectations; the school community consciously and continuously builds a safe, positive, respectful, and supportive culture that fosters student responsibility for learning and results in shared ownership, pride, and high expectations for all; and:

  • Every student over the course of the high school experience is enrolled in a minimum of two  heterogeneously grouped core courses within two academic areas (English/language arts, social studies, math, science,  or world languages)
  • Student load and class size enable teachers to meet the learning needs of individual students
  • The school board and superintendent provide the principal with the sufficient decision-making authority to lead the school 
  • The organization of time supports research-based instruction, professional collaboration among teachers, and the learning needs of all students
  • The school board, superintendent, and principal are collaborative, reflective, and constructive in achieving the school’s 21st century learning expectations
  • In order to improve student learning through professional development, the principal and professional staff:
    • engage in professional discourse for reflection, inquiry, and analysis of teaching and learning
    • use resources outside of the school to maintain currency with best practices
    • dedicate formal time to implement professional development 
    • apply the skills, practices, and ideas gained in order to improve curriculum, instruction, and assessment 


A rating of EXEMPLARY is appropriate if all the descriptors in the ACCEPTABLE rating are met and:

  • Every student over the course of the high school experience is enrolled in  two or more heterogeneously grouped core courses within two academic areas over a period of two academic years (English/language arts, social studies, math, science,  or world languages)
  • School leaders regularly use research-based evaluation and supervision processes that focus on improved student learning
  • Teachers, students, and parents are involved in meaningful and defined roles in decision-making that promote responsibility and ownership
  • Teachers exercise initiative and leadership essential to the improvement of the school and to increase students’ engagement in learning





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