What my school does right

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Aliceacc, Jan 11, 2009.

  1. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jan 11, 2009

    All the NCLB talk has me thinking a lot of education this morning as I do laundry and clean up.

    I teach in a Catholic Junior-Senior high school on Long Island. Our student population is approximately 2,550.

    We are bursting at the seams at a time when other Catholic schools are closing down. It's not our tuition: as a school in the $6000 range, I know we can't afford to send our own kids to the school in which I teach.

    So we must be doing something-- or a lot of somethings-- right. I thought this might be another way to approach the NCLB discussion-- find out what different schools are doing RIGHT. Maybe we can find some common denominators.

    So here goes, but I'll leave out the huge religious emphasis.

    - Our school has a very narrow focus. We are a college prep school. We have no special education. So all our kids are focused on the same type of education-- that which will prepare them for college and life beyond college.

    - Each child in my school takes a full academic program. There aren't many electives beyond a choice of language. Our seniors don't have those "early dismissal days because my classes are over at 10 am" stories that I read about.

    - We have a real emphasis on the basics. Everyone takes 4 years of math. All Seniors take English Composition. Grammar is strongly emphasized. There are very few bells and whistles-- our kids leave our building knowing the basics.

    - We have 3 "tracks"-- honors, an average track, and a below average (but still college prep) track. As a result, our classes are homogeneous. No one child is miles ahead or miles behind his classmates.

    - We identify weaknesses. Our below average freshmen don't take a language. Instead they alternate between double period English one day and double period math the next. The idea is that a student who is proficient in his first language will be better able to learn a second in college.

    - We teach Latin, and encourage students to take it, (All of our kids in grades 6-8 take Latin.) We find that they do much better in English with that Latin background.

    -We realize that some things beyond academics can stand in the way of academic achievement. We have a huge guidance program. WE have counseling groups for kids whose families are in crisis, because of death or divorce. We have a drug and alcohol counselor on staff. I think we run AA meetings during the school day; I'm not sure about that. Not because our kids have any more problems than in other high school, but because they have exactly the same problems. We just choose to acknowledge it.

    -We offer huge support to new teachers. New teachers have informal mentors to help them over the bumps. The AP has New TEacher meetings every Tuesday afternoon. They discuss everything from "how many failures is acceptable?" to "How do you proctor a test?" to "How do we begin a class?"

    - We have large classes. The payback is that those class sizes enable us to offer a salary that's competitive with local public schools.

    - We can count on support from the administration. If it ever comes down to my word against that of a kid, I know the administration is in my corner.


    There's a lot more, but I'll stop there.

    What does YOUR school do right???
     
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  3. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Our classes are very small.
     
  4. brigidy

    brigidy Comrade

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    Jan 11, 2009

    We create our goals as a group and continuously work to meet them. We realize that we must work together at every grade level for the student to find and maintain success. We stay in our classroom and teach the students.
    Our principal holds us to task, does continous walk-throughs to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to do. Our principal will support us in front of parents and students. I teach at a really good school.
    It is nice to focus on what is right instead of what is wrong!
     
  5. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jan 11, 2009

    My school is an experimental school. The county, seeking ways to address the specific needs of inner children opened up several k-12 schools. There is one class for each of the elementary grades and two classes for each of the middle and high school grades (regular and "honors") The idea here is that kids who lack stability anywhere else in their lives can get some stability by going to the same school, with close to the same student population throughout their entire education. Of course, there are always new students and students leaving, but there's a core that stays the same.

    Because the school is small I know each and every child. The middle and high school students I know by name (I recognize the little ones, but don't always know their names). The rest of the staff can say the same things. This holds these kids accountable for their actions. They know that they're not nameless faces in a crowd and they WILL be called out if the screw up. As a result, they don't screw up as often. There's also the sense that we care about them. I'm not saying that teachers in larger schools don't care, but the smallness of this school allows the students to see it more. That spurs them on to do better than they may have otherwise.

    My school also offeres weekly parent workshops. They're not often well atteneded since most of our parents are working more than one job, but by the end of the school year most of the parents have been to one or two of them (we do have a bunch of parents that don't give a darn, but more often, we have parents who want to be involved, but are too busy working three jobs trying to keep their kids housed and fed). I think when the kids see the parents involved, they invest more of themselves in their own education.

    I'm sure I have more to add, but I currently have 5 boys attempting to turn my house into a hot wheels/star wars fantasy land......
     
  6. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Jan 11, 2009

    Being a small school doesn't mean the teachers pay extra attention to the students like you mention. It's the spirit of your teachers that make the bigger difference. That's fantastic!
     
  7. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    Jan 11, 2009

    I teach in a school very similar to Alice's school but much smaller. We are an 8th-12th grade co-ed Catholic School. We are a 1:1 laptop school meaning that every student and every teacher has a laptop 24/7. This opens us up to many different kinds of lessons other than the old school methods of teaching. The laptops have made my school very competative. We do not have the problem of Catholic schools closing because most people who can afford it send their children to private school. A smaller Catholic school needs an edge over the other schools and the laptops are our edge. Once we get them into the door, they get a great education. We have 3 tracks--standard (below average), academic, and honors. Academic and Honors are college prep programs. Most of our standard classes are under 10 students which give these students what they need to succeed in high school. Our principal and asst principals are the glue that hold the school together. They stay behind their teachers and support us in all matters. I came here from a school that thought their students were "customers" (also a Catholic high school) and teachers were never backed up in student matters. This is why I and several other great teachers left.
     
  8. mom2ohc

    mom2ohc Habitué

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    Jan 11, 2009

    Alice your school sounds great! good job!

    our school is a good school also, good motivated teachers I would say is our key
     
  9. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jan 11, 2009

    Awesome administrators- supportive, 'push' our thinking and professional growth in positive ways, appreciate staff, trust professionals to do their job

    Supportive parents

    A shared philosophy

    Up-to-date technology- An awesome tech lab, a daily in-school TV production, document cameras, mobile laptop cart, Smartboards (coming within year to every classroom)

    Good salary- we're near the top of our county- aniticipating hard negotiations next time around with the economy

    Resources- we hire who we need to meet the needs of our kids: esl, special needs

    Inclusive- pretty much all of our classes are 'inclusion'-

    Amazing colleagues

    Professional Development- Reading and Writing Project school, Math Solutions training (Marilyn Burns), district and consortium in-service workshops

    Support for new teachers



    I'm blessed. I'm thankful everyday to be headed to my school.
     
  10. terptoteacher

    terptoteacher Connoisseur

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    Jan 11, 2009

    We have a great team spirit at my school. We collaborate, debate and support each other.
    We have cross grade level meetings every other Monday to ensure an easy transition from grade to grade. (first grade tells kindergarten where we see weaknessess and strengths, and what skills we really feel are important for incoming first graders--same for first to second etc.)
    We have a great team spirit with the parents and students too. School pride...it's a great motivator.
     
  11. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Jan 11, 2009

    Alice, I want to come work with you! Your school sounds great! :)

    My school of 2,400 is ranked as one of the top 100 or so public schools in the state of CA (many of them are magnets; we are not).
    94% of our students go on to college.
    We have an exceptional staff. Our P is very particular, and getting hired here on a permanent basis is an accomplishment (one I'm proud of!)
    We have a supportive, and often generous, parent population.
    Our counselors are wonderful!
    There are at least 60 different clubs on campus, from anime to philosophy, so there's something for any student who wants to get involved.
    All of our administrators are out with the kids during lunch and before and after school.
    We have an excellent athletic program that fosters a lot of school spirit.
    Our district pays a very competitive salary.

    Those are just off the top of my head - I can think of things that need improvement, of course, but overall I consider myself to be very lucky.
     
  12. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Jan 11, 2009

    This is from our website:

    I think I teach in the BEST school... we have small classes 13 or fewer for K and under, 15 and fewer for 1-6th, and really DO pay a lot of attention to each child and know all the children very, very well. These are our Core Values and I was on the committee that helped create them. Our children are very successful when they move on to middle school, and we focus on who each child is, not on which standards they have met and when.

    Children learn best when…

    They are trusted, valued and well known by their teachers, whom they see as allies.

    Their developmental timetables are respected.

    They experience diversity as a natural and positive dynamic in their classrooms and in the school community.

    They enjoy learning for its own sake rather than being motivated through competition or rewards.

    Their original, creative work is valued and nurtured.

    Their own wonderful ideas influence the curriculum.

    Their need for play is dignified as authentic learning.

    Their social connections and emotional lives are an integral part of their school experience.

    They find security in understandable and reasonable rules.

    They have close connections to the natural world.


    Teaching is most effective when…

    Teachers have a deep understanding of child development.

    There is an awareness of and appreciation for students' diverse backgrounds.

    Teachers practice their craft as both a science informed by current research, and as an art.

    There is an emphasis on conceptual level understanding and the interconnectedness of subjects.

    Assessment is done through observation and work samples rather than through tests and grades.

    Academic challenges are matched to each child's demonstrated cognitive growth.
    •Young children learn through discovery and direct experience.
    •Older children learn academics in a meaningful context with a purpose that matters to them.
    •Oldest children are guided to develop an authentic voice as well as skills needed when they outgrow the school.


    Our community thrives when…

    Diversity is valued and celebrated.

    Communication is respectful between all members of the community.

    Children feel ownership of the campus as their special place.

    Teachers and staff are respected as professionals dedicated to a form of education that is responsive, not predetermined, and thereby more demanding than traditional methodologies.

    There is a sense of partnership between parents and teachers.

    All members understand the values and methods of progressive education

    Students develop as independent thinkers capable of influencing the world in which they live
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jan 11, 2009

    It's crucial to recognize what's right. There are commonalities in the goals here, but I'll cheerfully wager that there's considerable diversity in the means to get there.

    Let's build on this, please.
     
  14. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    That's so true, tg. At every level (student, class, school, district, etc.) we tend to focus on what is going wrong and forget about celebrating our successes.
     
  15. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    Jan 11, 2009

    My school has dedicated teachers that put in lots of time and effort to build memorable lessons, activities, and clubs for students. We are a smaller school that allows more focus on the students as well. Supportive parents are the icing on the cake.

    I'm very biased, but I would venture to say our school is one of the best in the state! :D
     
  16. kimrandy1

    kimrandy1 Enthusiast

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    Jan 11, 2009

    Alice, I'd love to send my kids to your school!
    kim
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jan 12, 2009

    I would too Kim!

    If only we could afford it...
     

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