by Harry and Rosemary
A Most Effective
Imagine being part of a faculty where every teacher has succeeded in the classroom for the past six years. The only reason for leaving this school is either spousal relocation or to further your educational growth.
A school such as this does exist. It is not in Never Never Land! It is Goldfarb Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada. Yes, the attrition rate is zero! Zip! If a teacher has left it is not because they did not or could not succeed in the classroom.
When new teachers come to teach at Goldfarb, a culture of success already exists and the new teachers receive an induction program that helps them to get up to speed as fast as possible. The teachers help each other and that's why the teachers make Goldfarb Elementary a most effective school.
The Culture of Goldfarb Is Success
Last month we featured the classroom management style of the art teacher at
Goldfarb Elementary School, Jeanne Bayless http://teachers.net/wong/DEC01.
She says, "There is a consistent, school wide procedure for
walking through the halls and the students, themselves, teach
this procedure to the new teachers and the substitutes."
Yes, that's correct. The students teach the procedures to the new teachers and substitutes!
Students like being in a consistent environment where everyone knows what to do and where they can get on with learning. All effective schools have a culture and it is the information one gets from a culture that sends a message to the students that they will be productive and successful.
Goldfarb Success Trail
This message appeared when school began at Goldfarb this past September. The students were greeted with a 17 x 22-inch color poster in each classroom. The poster listed the school-wide procedures that had been agreed on by all the staff members and had been practiced by many of the returning students. The poster is called the
Daniel Goldfarb Elementary School
A Community of Learners Growing Together
||Freeze or walk to the blue line when appropriate.
||Walk to line up dot quietly.
Enter building quietly.
- Walk in single file.
- Walk on the right side.
- Walk quietly.
- Walk with hands at side.
- Use hall pass when not with an adult.
LUNCH ROOM PROCEDURES
- Walk in quietly.
- Have lunch card ready.
- Talk in quiet voices.
- Raise hand to be helped.
- Respond to paycheck/high five.
- Stay seated until excused.
- Clean up your area.
- Walk carefully to the playground.
FIELD TRIP PROCEDURES
- Be prepared and on time.
- Enter/exit bus in single file and in orderly fashion.
- Remain seated.
- Use quiet voices.
- Walk on campus at all times.
- Walkers exit at the gate by the bike rack.
- Cross street and parking lot at designated areas only.
- Wait for rides at the gate by the 60s Greatroom.
- After 3:30 pm, come to the office to wait or call home.
- Use the restroom quickly and quietly.
- Remember to flush.
- Use towels and soap sparingly.
- Clean up after yourself.
- Use hall pass when not with an adult.
How This Culture Was Developed
The principal of the school is Bridget Phillips and when the National Elementary Schools Principal Association published its latest book, Leading Learning Communities: Standards for What Principals Should Know and Be Able to Do, they must have been thinking of Bridget Phillips. The book says that, first and foremost, a principal is to be an instructional leader, which means having the competency to build a family or culture that is a learning community. Bridget Phillips acknowledges that her staff is an A+ staff. Effective schools are a learning community, a place where teachers and administrators study, work, and learn together with the mission of improving student achievement.
Effective schools are distinguishable from ineffective ones by the frequency and extent to which teachers learn together, plan together, test ideas together, discuss practices together, reflect together, grapple together -- with the fundamental vision and focus of developing students to their fullest capacity.
Thus, the function of a principal is not to count how many buses are needed, who has lunch duty in the cafeteria, and when an assembly is to be held. These must be done, but the principal is to rise above managerial duties and become an instructional leader.
"Too often, administrative education programs prepare managers, not the educational leaders schools so badly need today."
Arthur Levine, President,
Teachers College, Columbia University.
Ineffective principals hire teachers because they have a slot to fill. Then the teacher is given an assignment and told to go and teach, or in the case of many new teachers to go and survive. The message is figure it out yourself, do it yourself, and keep it to yourself.
Not at Goldfarb. Building on the two-year induction program of the Clark County School District, Bridget Phillips takes all of her first year teachers through an in-house induction, training program for one semester. A cadre of administrators and teachers teaches the induction program. The purpose of this training is two-fold:
- to train, support, and retain effective teachers and
- to acculturate the new teachers to how things are done at Goldfarb and continue to ensure a vision of student achievement.
The other semester, all student teachers from the local university are taken through a very similar training program. Thus, the student teacher gets more than one master teacher. The student teacher gets many master teachers. If a vacancy is expected at the school, Bridget Philips can pluck off one of these teachers for the staff before the teacher applies for a job elsewhere. It's like a coach who can pluck off a first round draft choice before the player is even allowed to enter the draft.
Even more impressive, the student teacher, when he or she begins
as a regular teacher, goes through the first-year induction program
given to all beginning teachers at Goldfarb. Can you understand
now, why, in our April 2001 http://teachers.net/wong/APR01
column, we strongly recommended that when you go for a job interview
to ask if the district has a new teacher induction program? And
if not, to move on to another interview. An induction program
is how a district says to you that they care about you and want
you to succeed and stay, so they will give you training and support.
Do not be so naïve as to believe that you can succeed on your own. Find a school district and a school that will support you and help you to realize your full potential in affecting the lives of young people. Then, have a mindset that you want to work together and learn together with the other teachers and administrators at your school. This is the only way to improve student achievement, in a culture of student success.
Mentors are no longer really used at Goldfarb Elementary School in Las Vegas. Instead, student teachers and new teachers are surveyed as to their needs. The list is publicized and "tons" of teachers respond with willingness to answer, help, or present sessions at in-house training sessions. This is a true learning community of educators sharing with and helping fellow educators.
Developing the Goldfarb Success Trail
The Success Trail is a series of school-wide procedures agreed upon by the teachers. To develop and refine these procedures a staff planning committee organized a retreat for one day. The retreat was put on by the staff using funds designated for the retreat from the lounge soda pop machine. It was held on a day in August with the staff agreeing to give up planning to time to attend.
Many of the procedures were already in place as they had been started four years ago when several other schools were doing the same process based on materials from the book, The First Days of School. By the second year, there were two pages of procedures and routines. Each year the staff revisited many of the procedures, tweaking them, until they were now firmly in place.
During the retreat the procedures were placed on several large charts for discussion. The finalized procedures were presented to the staff, including all new teachers, in August for discussion and implementation. These procedures form the basis for the poster, which the district's graphic arts department designed and produced.
Because of the existing induction training many of the new teachers have been trained in what to do and how to teach the school's procedures. It's comforting to have everyone "on the same page." It makes it easier for the veteran teacher to help the new teachers fine-tune their classroom techniques. If necessary, sometimes a sub is hired for a new teacher so that that teacher can shadow a veteran teacher during a day. Watching and being part of a common culture helps to quickly bring everyone up to speed with the rest of the staff.
Working Together As a Family
Mike Schmoker's book, Results: The Key to Continuous School Improvement, says that schools that show positive results in student achievement have a staff that exhibits "meaningful teamwork."
Roland Barth says the same thing in his book, Improving Schools From Within:
The nature of the relationship among the adults at the school has more to do with the
its character, and
the achievement of its students
than any other factor.
Mike Schmoker and Roland Barth say what has always been known:
People who work together always achieve greater results
than people who work alone.
Resolutions for 2002
The tragic events of the past year have put the word FAMILY back into our vocabulary and our priorities in life. As a learning community you are a family of educators working to provide your students with the best opportunity to learn as there can possibly be. You want each of your students to grow up learned and successful. And what parent doesn't want this for his or her child?
Resolve in the coming year to work together as a staff to provide a climate where success is the norm for students and teachers. Reach out to colleagues with tips, pats, or just lend an ear. Do the same for your students, too. But most of all realize that you have the capacity to influence the world by what you do and who you are in the classroom. Teachers are the hope for a brighter tomorrow.
We wish you a most Effective and Happy New Year!
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