Richard Therrien Position on Correlates of Effective Schools.
The Correlates of Effective Schools are a set of organizational and contextual indicators that Lawrence Lezotte and others have identified as being necessary for strong, positive effect on student achievement. Following are my thoughts on each correlate, and how it is important for a successful school.
is important to note that this work ties in very well with work by Marzano,
Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde and
others, that outline research proven strategies for what works in schools. It
is no coincidence that both these lists align quite well with the standards of
bodies such as the Accreditation Board of the New England Association of
Schools and Colleges. Lezotte has further defined the Second-Generation
Correlates; the next stage for schools that have assimilated the first set,
bought into the mission of “Learning for All” and are ready to further improve.
Strong Instructional Leadership
In the effective school, the principal acts as an instructional leader and effectively and persistently communicates that mission to the staff, parents, and students. The principal understands and applies the characteristics of instructional effectiveness in the management of the instructional program.
It is the principal that is responsible for setting the mission, but I would postulate that is not the principal that is primarily responsible for overseeing it. A truly mission driven school is going to involve all staff and stakeholders, from the teachers to the support staff to carry this out. The mission does not flow from one person, but from all.
Clear and Focused Mission
In the effective school, there is a clearly articulated school mission through which the staff share an understanding of and a commitment to the instructional goals, priorities, assessment procedures, and accountability. Staff accept responsibility for students’ learnings of the school’s essential curricular goals.
This is a very subtle correlate, because it implies that all aspects of the learning process are driven by the mission. Certainly the idea of school wide expectations and rubrics ties into this. But it also shows a willingness to cast aside curricular ideas and favorite projects, courses, and activities that do not tie directly into the mission. This is a tall order in a modern, mature school, and requires more than lip service.
Climate of High Expectations for Success
In the effective school, there is a climate of expectation in which the staff believes and demonstrates that all students can attain mastery of the essential school skills and they believe that they have the capability to help all students attain that mastery.
All students. It cannot be stated more clearly. Too many schools think that their mission is prepare students for college, or for harder courses. The mission of schools is to teach students for their future, their life. This means that all students meet some basic goals and schools and work together to do so. This means more hetereogenous grouping, not less, as well as a school designed to support students in meeting these skills, regardless of their situation.
Safe & Orderly Environment
In the effective school, there is an orderly, purposeful, businesslike atmosphere which is free from the threat of physical harm. The school climate is not oppressive and is conducive to teaching and learning.
Of course there needs to be order in a school. Lezotte makes a special point that the adults are responsible for always being watchful. I would state that the second part, which states that the school climate is conducive to learning, is the key here. A school is not a prison, and students are not prisoners. They need to be given responsibility for their learning, and freedom in that respect. I am a firm believer that curriculum defines order, and that classroom management comes from lesson planning.
Frequent Monitoring of Student Progress
In the effective school, student academic progress is measured frequently. A variety of assessment procedures are used. The results of the assessments are used to improve individual student performance and also to improve the instructional program.
Sadly, this is probably the least followed correlate. It goes back to the idea of assessment for learning, as opposed to assessment of learning. Teachers and staff should be learning about their students when assessment happens, and then using those results. Even though this is emphasized over and over again in BEST portfolios, in teaching and supervision, in accredidation reports, it seems as is few schools take the time to use the rich resource of data that they have in order to make anything more than superficial changes.
Opportunity to Learn & Student Time on Task
In the effective school, teachers allocate a significant amount of classroom time to instruction in the essential skills. For a high percentage of this time, students are engaged in whole class or large group, planned, teacher-directed learning activities.
This means that time is not wasted in a classroom. Teachers have planned out a lesson to meet certain goals. They share these with the students. Students work on this. Non-effective teachers may do something like assign a long-term project, and then watch students waste time in their research. Effective teachers help the students master skills and reach goals.
Positive Home-School Relations
In the effective school, parents understand and support the school’s basic mission and are given the opportunity to play an important role in helping the school to achieve this mission.
This is probably a key finding that many leaders will shy away from because it is so delicate. It is hard to reach out to parents and engage them in a non-confrontational way. Yet, it is key to getting long-term change accepted by the community.
THE EIGHTH CORRELATE?
We have been challenged to find the eighth correlate. In my mind, it is simply this. Effective schools are one in which people (staff, students, everyone) care about each other. It sounds simple, yet the power of simply empathy is important. Teachers need to care about their students as people, not simply as test takers, and “clients”. Parents need to care about their administrators, and students about each other. No amount of organizational structure, written goals, and time can make up for the basic needs of humans to nuture and care for each other. If there are staff in the building that simply don’t like kids, or each other, they should leave. This is such a fundamental idea, that I find it hard to believe it doesn’t come at the top of the list!
Lezotte, Lawrence W. Correlates of Effective Schools: The First and Second Generation. Effective Schools Products, Ltd., Okemos, MI, 1991.