Best Practice Link
High School Completion Themes
High School Completion
Theme - Staff Selection, Leadership, and Capacity Building
- School culture is distinguished by strong relational trust and close collaboration.
- The hiring process pays close attention to only hiring educators who will fit well with the school and district.
- Teachers and administrators are dedicated to their students and their success in and beyond high school.
An attitude of "We're all in this together" is pervasive and supportive of constant collaboration, especially to meet the needs of students most at risk of failing to graduate. This collaboration involves, in particular, guidance and social service personnel with teachers and principals, and special and regular educators. Whether the schools are large or small, those within them understand their unique cultures and are careful to hire only those who will fit well. Fitting in well includes a commitment to students and the community itself and a willingness to see one's role as extending beyond the classroom and conventional school day. This culture is pervasive enough that it survives changes in the superintendency and/or principalship.
Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools
Educators in the higher-performing schools stay because they love working with whatever population the school serves. They make an effort to understand the life experiences of those students and their families and as best they can, to accommodate unique needs, challenges, and aspirations. Teachers are generally involved in identifying their professional development needs, often meet those needs by learning with their colleagues (e.g., in professional learning groups), and are expected and supported to share their knowledge and expertise with the larger faculty. Their relationship with administrators is collegial and collaborative, as well.
The differences between higher and average performers are generally those of degree. Educators in the average-performing schools are working on building trusting relationships with students and the community, including coming to better understand the populations they serve, because "rules without relationships means rebellion." They are seeking to instill a culture of collaboration and the structures to better support it. Without a strong and sustaining collaborative culture, changes in leadership have resulted in stops and starts in new programs and approaches.
End-of-year evaluations for all levels of professionals emphasize trust, support, collaboration, and contributing to the larger community, as seen in documents from the Sewanhaka District and used in Elmont Memorial High School. For example, teacher evaluations include a school activities category; chairpersons are expected to help others develop professionally and to engender a culture of contribution; and a sample from the principal evaluation rubric also shows the emphasis on developing healthy relationships.
Teachers in Downsville work together daily on improving their individual and collective performance, as shown in a weekly meeting schedule.
Recognition of and respect for individual differences pertains to teachers as well as students, as reflected in Downsville's mentor/mentee program.
Teachers at Elmont Memorial High School are expected to share their knowledge and expertise with peers and are provided opportunities to do so during professional development days.