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What Makes a School Effective? (page 4)

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Updated on Nov 21, 2013

Monitor Students’ Progress

Lezotte’s research into the values of effective schools found that students who were regularly tested on their academic progress were more successful than those who weren’t. Frequent teacher-written evaluations give teachers the information they needed to make changes if some or all students weren’t mastering class material.

While effective schools use assessments, Lezotte believes teachers can and should assess the students’ learning more holistically and less formally than standardized exams—relying less on multiple-choice tests and giving more attention to portfolios and presentations. Students should also be encouraged to monitor themselves by keeping progress charts and revisiting graded assignments.

Provide the Opportunity to Learn

Students tend to learn the things they spend the most time on. Teachers at effective schools are aware of limited instruction time and create a syllabus with that in mind. Keeping the mission at the forefront, teachers must create a syllabus that allows for not just all material to be covered, but also for it to be mastered, within the time constraints of the class. The syllabus must be flexible enough to allow re-teaching when the students are having trouble with certain key concepts.

In effective schools, teachers must sometimes practice “organized abandonment” when approaching their lesson plans. If students aren’t mastering fundamental skills like reading, then teachers and schools may have to abandon lower-priority learning experiences until students are caught up to the appropriate standards. While organized abandonment is essential for true learning in limited timeframes, Lezotte and others advocate for more time spent in school in general, starting that schools could be more effective with shorter vacations and longer school days.

Build a True Partnership Between Home and School

The most effective schools have what Lezotte calls an authentic partnership with parents. At the most basic level, Lezotte says, teachers and staff must be able to rely on parents to get their children to school on time and regularly, and parents must be assured “that their children are entering a safe and caring place.”

But a true home and school partnership goes much further. Teachers and parents work together to help kids get the most out of their assignments. Parents devote time to tutor their children, and teachers provide clear directions for how parents can help in a productive way. This strategy is most effective when teachers and parents have an open line of communication and can share notes on the student’s progress.

According to Lezotte, effective schools go beyond purely academic matters when it comes to bridging home and school. In the most effective relationship between home and school, parents and other community agencies work together to address problems that are not uniquely school-based, says Lezotte. Drug use, bullying, and gang activity “are all serious problems where the school can contribute to the solution, but the school can’t solve them alone.” In an ideal situation, the community as a whole works as a team to tackle these issues and create a better environment for learning, and a better society.

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