Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How Principals Can Change Failing Schools

One of the critical aspects of transforming a school is selecting the right leadership.  The expectation that there will be new  leadership that will result in a successful school must be in the hearts and minds of the principal, staff and teachers who see students every day.  Why do some schools turn around while others flounder?  It is because some principals and teachers continue to lead the same way they did last year.  They expect different results but they keep doing the same things that caused the school to fail.  Successful principals and teachers see change as a good aspect of their schools success.  There must be leadership with a positive vision and measurable outcomes that inspire students to be successful. There must be a commitment to moving forward with new ideas and actions.
     The principals, staff and teachers in a school that’s progressing has very good communication and cooperation among the entire professionals who are running the school.  There is an expectation that all communication has a purpose and motivates everyone to raise the level of energy that is invested in student instruction. A better school will come from everyone knowing how to carry out the vision of the principal.  Teachers in this school should feel free to talk to each other and to develop some of their own strategies to improve student motivation. This includes reviewing the way that they communicate their lessons to students.  The teachers must also feel confident that the principal understands them and takes time to teach students too.  A principal who takes time to teach will have a better sense of what students are learning in their classrooms.
     The students must understand that everyone at the school expects them to do well.  There must be a strategy to totally abolish the culture of low expectation.  Students must be applauded and recognized for their accomplishments in the classroom.  A whole school culture can change if the students who maintain a “C” average are challenged and rewarded for raising their performance to a “B” average or higher. Success is evident in a school when the principal and teachers make learning fun and engaging.  The school not only celebrates their success of its athletes but has a bigger celebration over students who excel in the classroom.  A school atmosphere can change so that athletes want to become a scholar athlete.  Better grades and academic performance will get all students excited about coming to school.
     There must be a level of compassion by the principal and teachers.  A school must be a welcoming place that is aware of the neighborhoods and cultures that influence the students.  Schools administrators that ignore the child’s problems are ignoring that they are affected by a number of struggles.  The challenges that a student can face when there is one parent in the home are tremendous.  Even if the student has two parents it does not guarantee that they will focus their energy on the student’s academic success. The principal and teachers must understand these challenges and work on some solutions that help each student to position themselves to learn when they are in school.  There are some very bright students whose home situation is not good.  It is better to meet the challenge head on than to hope that it will go away.
    It is important to lead from the front and not from the back. What is meant by this statement? It is better to have a plan that the school is following than to constantly respond to conflict and problems that were never fixed.  When the principals, staff and teachers lead from the front schools become better.  The teachers are excited to come to school because they feel supported. The students get the benefit of the teacher’s enthusiasm.  The principals and teachers can be role models of what good leadership looks like.  They also inspire students to become leaders at the school and in their community. 
     Positive changes can come from principals, staff and teachers who know how to get parents involved in the daily life of the school.  Parents often do not know how they play a positive role because their own parents were not involved in their school.  The school staff and several parents should come together to discuss how other parents can be involved.  These meetings can be held in the school, at a community center or at a church.   An effective parent involvement program includes meeting the parents where they live.  It’s great when a principal can find a pre-existing group of parents that meet and find a way to get on their agenda.  This saves the parent’s time but the principal can share important information with them. Persistence and a significant improvement in the students success is the key to improving parent involvement.
    Finally an inspired principal and staff can change a failing school by promoting career awareness to all at all K12 levels. Too many students are drifting in schools where they have no idea what their future could look like.  I firmly believe that career exploration should occur all year.  The K12 students need to explore careers to sustain their enthusiasm and the vision to explore how they can work in professions such as medicine, engineering, government, business and other professions.  The principals and teachers are the catalyst that motivates students can educate students about some of to pursue the top careers.  It is time to try something different at the failing schools. It is time to take action and to fight for successful schools.

Dr. Stephen Jones is an education expert who you should consider for your school.  He is the author of the Seven Secrets of How to Study, the Parent’s Ultimate Education Guide and the Ultimate scholarship guide at http://www.studyskills2u.com. Contact him right away at 610-842-3843.

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