For many decades, educational researchers have sought to discover why some schools were successful in teaching all children, regardless of their demographics or disadvantages. Over the decades, the accumulated research into effective schools has yielded a set of common characteristics that all effective schools share. These characteristics are so consistently prevalent among successful schools, they have come to be known as the Correlates of Effective Schools.
The original correlate descriptions, which we call the “First Generation,” represent what the original effective schools research found to be the minimum standards of a particular characteristic that a school must meet to be effective. The “Second Generation” of each correlate incorporates subsequent research findings into our understanding of each characteristic, and represents a developmental step beyond the first and, when successfully accomplished, will move the school even closer to the mission of Learning for All. It is the leader’s job to not only see that the original correlate is in place, but to guide the school or district in embracing the next generation of educating our children.
1. Safe and Orderly Environment
The First Generation: In the effective school there is an orderly, purposeful, and businesslike atmosphere that is free from the threat of physical harm. The school climate is not oppressive and is conducive to teaching and learning.
The Second Generation: The second generation moves beyond the elimination of undesirable behavior and places increased emphasis on the presence of certain desirable behaviors, such as collaboration and teamwork. Since schools as workplaces are characterized by their isolation, creating more collaborative and cooperative environments for both the adults and students will require substantial commitment and change in most schools. Educational leaders must nurture the belief that collaboration, which often requires more time initially, will help schools to be more effective and satisfying in the long run. They must embrace and promote acceptance of and respect for diversity and multiculturalism, help teachers learn the “technologies” of teamwork, and create the “opportunity structures” for collaboration. Leaders must model these behaviors, as well, and “be the world we want to see.”
2. Climate of High Expectations for Success
The First Generation: In the effective school, the staff believes that all students can master of the essential school skills, and that they have the capability to help all students achieve that mastery.
The Second Generation: In the second generation, the emphasis placed on high expectations for success is broadened significantly. Here, high expectations will be judged, not only by the initial staff beliefs and behaviors, but also by the organization’s—and by association, the leader’s—response when some students do not learn. For example, if the teacher plans and delivers a lesson, finds that some students did not learn, but still goes on to the next lesson, then that teacher didn’t expect the students to learn in the first place. If the leader condones through silence that teacher’s behavior, that leader apparently does not expect the students to learn or the teacher to teach these students.
The second generation represents significant challenge to the leaders who must help their schools, as cultural organizations, transform from teaching-centered institutions to learning-centered organizations where teachers have high expectations of themselves as teachers, and have access to more “tools” to help them ensure that every child learns.
3. Instructional Leadership
The First Generation: 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.
The Second Generation: Here the concept of instructional leadership is broadened to encompass all adults, especially the teachers. The role of the principal becomes “a leader of leaders,” rather than a leader of followers. The leader’s greatest contribution in this generation will be to articulate a vision to which all stakeholders can commit, and create a community of shared values guided by the “magnetic north” of the mission. This broader concept of leadership recognizes that leadership is always delegated from the followership in any organization and that expertise is generally distributed among many, not concentrated in a single person.
4. Clear and Focused Mission
The First Generation: In the effective school, there is a clearly articulated school mission, through which the staff shares an understanding of and commitment to the instructional goals, priorities, assessment procedures, and accountability. Staff accepts responsibility for student learning.
The Second Generation: The first generation prompted the rise of two issues. The first focused on the meaning of “learning for all.” Did we really mean all students or just those with whom the schools had a history of reasonable success? When it became clear that we really did mean all students, especially the poor and disadvantage, the second issue surfaced. It asked the question: Learn what? Partially because of the accountability movement and partially because of the belief that disadvantaged students could not learn higher-level curricula, the “what” focused primarily on low-level skills.
In the second generation, the focus shifts toward a more appropriate balance between higher-level learning and the basic skills that are prerequisite to their mastery, and from a teaching-centered orientation to one that is learning centered. Designing and delivering a curriculum that responds to the demands of accountability, and is responsive to the need for higher levels of learning will require substantial staff development. It will incumbent upon the leader to promote the “learning for all” mission and to ensure that teachers have the necessary skills and tools to accomplish it.
5. Opportunity to Learn and Student Time on Task
The First Generation: 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, teacher-directed, planned learning activities.
The Second Generation: One of the reasons that many of the mandated approaches to school reform have failed is that, in every case, the local school was asked to do more! In this generation, a characteristic of the most effective schools is their willingness to declare that some things are more important than others; they are willing to abandon some less important content so that the students master the critical content in the limited time available. Leaders will have to help their teachers become more skilled at interdisciplinary curriculum and at practicing “organized abandonment.” They will have to ask the question, “What goes, and what stays?”
The only alternative to abandonment would be to adjust the available time that students spend in school, so that those who need more time to reach mastery would be given it. This may require us to reexamine past policies and practices, such as our notions about the length of the school day or school year. If we choose to extend learning time, it must be in a quality program that is not perceived as punitive by those in it, or as excessive by those who must fund it. These conditions will be a real challenge indeed!
6. Frequent Monitoring of Student Progress
The First Generation: In the effective school, student academic progress is measured frequently through a variety of assessment procedures. The results of these assessments are used to improve individual student performance and also to improve the instructional program.
The Second Generation: In this generation, technology will permit teachers to do a better and timelier job of monitoring their students’ progress. This same technology will allow students to monitor their own learning and, where necessary, adjust their own behavior. The use of computerized practice tests, the ability to get immediate results on homework, and the ability to see correct solutions developed on the screen are a few of the available tools for assuring student learning. We will also continue to shift away from standardized norm-referenced tests toward more authentic assessments of curriculum mastery. This generally means that there will be less emphasis on the paper-pencil, multiple-choice tests, and more emphasis on assessments of products of student work, including performances and portfolios.
It will be up to the educational leader to ensure that there is tight alignment between the intended, taught, and tested curriculum. This will require that the leader engage the stakeholders in addressing two questions: “What’s worth knowing?” and “How will we know when they know it?” This will demand our best thinking and plenty of patience to reach consensus. The good news is that once we begin to reach consensus, the schools will be able to deliver significant progress toward these agreed-upon outcomes.
7. Home-School Relations
The First Generation: In the effective school, parents understand and support the school’s mission and are given the opportunity to play an important role in helping the school to achieve this mission.
The Second Generation: During the first generation, the role of parents in the education of their children was always somewhat unclear. While schools often gave “lip service” to having parents more involved in the schooling of their children, many educators really did not know how to effectively handle increased parent involvement. In this generation, the relationship between parents and the school must be an authentic partnership. However, it has become clear to both teachers and parents that the parent involvement issue is not simple. The leader must help teachers and parents confront this issue—and not each other—in a way that builds trust and the understanding that both teachers and parents have the same goal—a quality education and a successful future for all children!
Taken with permission from the book Stepping Up: Leading the Charge to Improve Our Schools by Dr. Lawrence W. Lezotte and Kathleen McKee Snyder. Available at www.effectiveschools.com