Nine Characteristics of High Performing Schools

Research has shown that there is no silver bullet-no single thing that schools can do to ensure high student performance. Rather, high performing schools tend to show evidence of the following nine characteristics:

  1. Clear and Shared Vision and Purpose - Everybody knows where they are going and why. That vision is shared-everybody is involved. The vision is developed from common beliefs and values, creating a consistency of purpose.
  2. High Standards and Expectations - Teachers and staff believe that all students can learn and that they can teach all students. There is recognition of barriers for some students to overcome, but the barriers are not insurmountable. Students become engaged in an ambitious and rigorous course of study.
  3. Effective School Leadership - Effective leadership is required to implement change processes within the school. This leadership takes on many forms. Principals often play this role, but so do teachers and other staff, including those in the district office. Effective leaders advocate, nurture, and sustain a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.
  4. High Levels of Collaboration and Communication - There is constant collaboration and communication between and among teachers of all grades. Everybody is involved and connected, including parents and members of the community, to solve problems and create solutions.
  5. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Aligned with the Standards - Curriculum is aligned with the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs). Research-based materials and teaching and learning strategies are implemented. There is a clear understanding of the assessment system, what is measured in various assessments and how it is measured.
  6. Frequent Monitoring of Teaching and Learning - Teaching and learning are continually adjusted based on frequent monitoring of student progress and needs. A variety of assessment procedures are used. The results of the assessment are used to improve student performances and also to improve the instructional program.
  7. Focused Professional Development - Professional development for all educators is aligned with the school's and district's common focus, objectives, and high expectations. It is ongoing and based on high need areas.
  8. Supportive Learning Environment - The school has a safe, civil, healthy, and intellectually stimulating learning environment. Students feel respected and connected with the staff, and are engaged in learning. Instruction is personalized and small learning environments increase student contact with teachers.
  9. High Level of Community and Parent Involvement - There is a sense that all educational stakeholders have a responsibility to educate students, not just the teachers and staff in schools. Parents, as well as businesses, social service agencies, and community colleges/universities all play a vital role in this effort.

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