What Makes a School Effective?
Dr. Larry Lezotte was one of the pioneers of the Effective Schools movement, which began in 1966 in response to a controversial report written by sociologist James Coleman. Coleman’s report stated that schools could do little to support students’ academic achievement, because achievement was predominantly related to the demographics and socioeconomic class of the surrounding community.
Lezotte's Effective Schools research, articulated in his 2010 book What Effective Schools Do, aimed to prove that schools could have a significant positive impact on their students’ achievement regardless of other circumstances. At its heart, Lezotte’s research stressed the seven “Correlates of Effective Schools.” These factors were characteristics of effective schools across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum. To be an effective school, a school must:
Be a Safe and Organized Place
An effective school must first be a place where students can feel safe, physically and emotionally. It must be a supportive community where kids—and teachers—of all backgrounds can focus on learning. To create a climate of safety, halls and classrooms must be free of behavior like fighting, bullying, and harassment. That said, a safe environment is not created merely through punishment.
A 2011 study by Michael Thompson, researcher and director of the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments, shows that suspension and expulsion as discipline for “discretionary violations” actually do more harm than good for the individual student. They also damage the sense of community within the school. Students who receive suspensions and expulsions for discretionary violations are three times more likely to end up in a juvenile detention center the following year, and an authoritarian system creates an oppressive atmosphere where learning and school effectiveness are impaired.
To achieve a safe environment where kids are free to reach their potential academically, Thompson advocates for schools to focus on preventing misbehavior by implementing school-wide “positive behavior interventions.” According to Thompson, these interventions should stress social skills and emotional learning, to teach students conflict resolution and cultural understanding.
Lezotte advocates similar methods of positivity. According to Lezotte, teachers, parents, and other mentors need to encourage a learning environment in school-age kids by treating schools as “sacred places.” How society values school as a whole culture has everything to do with how students will engage with their own education. When students regard school as an institution with higher respect, they will enter the school with attitudes more conducive to learning, Lezotte says.
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