Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Positive School Climate

"Effective school climates reflect routines and practices that strengthen students’ goals for learning and provide multiple opportunities for students to make decisions about their schooling"

A key component of school climate concerns the relationships that exist among students and adults, as well as the relationships among schools, families, and their communities.

Between teachers and students

The relationships between teachers and students are the most important to achievement. They should be warm and caring and meet students’ personal and developmental needs. Teachers’ actions must show their high expectations for their students and their confidence that their students will be successful. Classroom climates can be irrevocably harmed if teachers behave in derogatory or punitive ways.

Among students

 Three aspects of peer relationships are present in schools with positive climates:
  1.  Each student has at least three friends who provide safe harbors in difficult times
  2. Students are able to resolve everyday conflicts in productive and prosocial ways that do not interrupt friendships or disrupt classmates’ interactions
  3. Students feel safe and protected from peer aggression, intimidation, and bullying.

These characteristics may be difficult to observe directly because high quality peer interactions can include jostling and rough talk. Adults may be unfamiliar with the tenor, conventions, and boundaries that mark students’ interactions with one another, and they may not be able to distinguish between student conflict and student friendships. But most students are adept judges of the social culture, and collectively, they can reliably assess the school’s peer climate.

Among adults at school

In most respects, teachers need the same things from their colleagues that students require from their classmates: a few good friends at work, trust that minor conflicts over resources or practices will be resolved productively and respectfully, and safety from social aggression and victimization. Strong collegial relationships multiply the supports teachers have to strengthen their instructional strategies: colleagues bounce ideas off of one another, share their successes, step in to help solve challenging problems, and foster conditions for successful teaching.

Among schools and families

In schools with strong school climates, teachers’ relationships with their students’ families are usually familiar and comfortable. Families and schools hold common expectations and values for students’ learning and development, which prevents misunderstanding between school and family life. Students should not be required to negotiate disagreements between their parents and teachers. When families visit the school on a daily basis, the community’s culture becomes familiar and welcoming.

Source: Dr. Kanika D. White, 2010, Principal Leadership, [Online] Available from: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/principals/School_ClimatePLDec10_ftsp.pdf Retrieved on 27th November 2012 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What is a school improvement plan?

A school improvement plan is a road map that sets out the changes a school needs to make to improve the level of student achievement, and shows how and when these changes will be made.

School improvement plans are selective: they help principals, teachers, and other stakeholders answer the questions “What will we focus on now?” and “What will we leave until later?” They encourage staff and parents to monitor student achievement levels and other factors, such as the school environment, that are known to influence student success. With up-to-date and reliable information about how well students are performing, schools are better able to respond to the needs of students, teachers, and parents.

A school improvement plan is also a mechanism through which the public can hold schools accountable for student success and through which it can measure improvement. One of the first steps—a crucial one—in developing an improvement plan involves teachers, parents, and other community members working together to gather and analyse information about the school and its students, so that they can determine what needs to be improved in their school. As the plan is implemented, schools continue to gather this kind of data. By comparing the new data to the initial information on which the plan was based, they— and the public—can measure the success of their improvement strategies.

Real change takes time. It is important that all partners understand this as they enter into the school improvement planning process. Incremental improvements are significant, and they should be celebrated, but they do not constitute lasting change. School improvement plans are therefore best designed as three-year plans:
  • year 1 is taken up with the planning process
  • year 2 is the first year of implementation
  • year 3 is the year in which implementation continues.

During initial deliberations, or as time goes on, schools may wish to extend their plan for additional years to ensure that they maintain their focus and reach their goals. In any case, school improvement plans should be considered working documents that schools use to monitor their progress over time and to make revisions when necessary to ensure that the plans stay on course. 

In developing their school’s improvement plan, the principal, staff, parents, and other community members work through a variety of activities focused areas like curriculum delivery, school environment, and parental involvement. For each of these focused areas, schools establish the following:
  • a goal statement
  • performance targets
  • areas of focus
  • implementation strategies
  • indicators of success
  • time lines
  • responsibility for implementing
  • strategies
  • checkpoints for status updates
  • opportunities for revisions.
Taken from: Education Improvement Commission, 2000, School Improvement Planning: A handbook for principals, Teachers, and School Councils [Online] Available from: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/reports/sihande.pdf