Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University recently launched the Developing Effective Schools Center (DESC), a national research and development center on identifying programs, practices, processes and policies that make some high schools more effective at reaching certain students than others. The DESC notes that consensus has grown among practitioners and researchers around the essential components of a successful high school. These include quality instruction, a rigorous curriculum, a culture of learning, professional behavior, connections to external communities, systemic use of data, system performance accountability, and learner-centered leadership.
Marzano (2003) reviewed 35 years of research of ‘what works in schools.’ He organized his results into three general factors of influence on student achievement. These are 1) school-level factors (viable curriculum, challenging goals and effective feedback, parent and community involvement, safe and orderly environment), 2) teacher-level factors (instructional strategies, classroom management, classroom curriculum design), and 3) student-level factors (home atmosphere, learned intelligence and background knowledge, motivation).
As I reviewed the two lists, I wondered if considering these components and categories would be helpful as I continue to organize my thoughts regarding a new high school. It seemed that each component and category could be applied to a Christian education context with little difficulty. I then recalled my recent site visitation experience at Monroe Christian School which introduced me to the accreditation standards that are central Christian Schools International. These are Standards 1) Community, 2) Staff, 3) Students, and 4) Curriculum. I mapped my understanding of the components suggested by DESC and the Marzano categories of what works in schools to the four CSI Standards and decided to include those additional components that a private institution needs to consider. This led to following organizing framework:
- centrality of vision and mission of the school (including the philosophical foundation of education/school)
- connections to external communities (including parent and community involvement)
- responsibilities & relationships among all participants in the learning process (including the student-level factors of home atmosphere, motivation, and learned intelligence and background knowledge)
- systemic use of data to guide decision-making and inform system performance
- teacher development and support
- healthy and professional teacher leadership
- developing a culture of learning
- discipleship and development
- student services & programs
- enrollment (admissions & retention)
- graduation requirement
4. Curriculum & Instruction
- a guaranteed, viable & rigorous curriculum
- quality instruction & classroom management
- learning environment
- educational technology
As I continue to develop my thinking about a new school, I will remember this framework.
Christian Schools International. (2006). Vision to action. Retrieved October 12, 2010 at http://www.csionline.org/.
Marzano, R. J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Peabody College of Education. (2010, Fall). Ideas in action. Peabody Reflector. 11.