Since the No Child Left Behind act was passed in 2001, schools have had a new degree of accountability. In Alaska, some of these schools have stepped up to the plate and closed the achievement gap, while others have not. In the article “Why are some schools successful?” Katie Pesznecker reports on what makes some schools successful, and what makes some schools less successful.
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A meeting was called for some principals of successful schools. They compiled a list of traits that make their schools successful. These traits include: embracing accountability, looking at what individual students need, high expectations for students, and creative and caring staff. Staff members, especially principals in schools where the achievement gap was closing tended to help each of their students individually, teach them what was going to be on the tests, make sure their students could read, and more. One school that was originally rated failing because only 20% of students could read at grade level (in third grade) is now rated higher because 85% of students can read at grade level.
This article shows that teachers, administrators, and families need to have high expectations for students, and be determined to help their students meet these expectations. Teachers who feel that NCLB is a useless piece of legislation and that there is nothing wrong with their schools, despite the obvious achievement gap are doing their students a disservice. According to the article, teachers with a “business as usual” attitude usually teach at schools where success levels are not improving.
Teachers need to be creative in the classrooms. Not every student learns in the same way, but all students have the capability to learn somehow. Teachers need to be sensitive to these individual differences, and be able to adjust to them as needed. According to the article, teachers know that if students do not learn to read, they will not be successful in life. That is why teachers must be accountable for teaching students to read, and they must also be creative at times in the ways that they teach reading.
Of course, these positive results aren’t possible overnight. In schools where the achievement gap was great, teachers and administrators put together long-term plans with carefully chosen curriculum. Having an open mind and constantly re-evaluation efforts was another key part of the plan. No teacher is perfect, but by helping each other they can learn to teach students well.
Not every school has embraced these changes. According to the article, it is because they have not yet embraced the idea of accountability. It is difficult to truly be accountable to someone or something, especially if the result of ‘failure’ is a lost job, lost funding, or other serious consequences. It is easier to do a ‘pretty good job’ and accept that the rest is beyond one’s control. However, this approach hurts students who need extra attention.
Schools that were successful also had a strong remedial program, complete with before and after school help for the students who needed such a program. Recognizing that students have different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different needs, is key to helping all students succeed.
These Alaskan schools are a model for success in many ways. They show that accountability is very important in improving the quality of anything, namely education. Treating individual students differently based on their needs is also important. Having high-quality, creative teachers is key. All in all, these Alaskan schools are models of efficiency.
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