Council for Learning Improvement
The Brentwood CLI will...
NINE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIGH PERFORMING SCHOOLS
OSPI reviewed 20 recent research studies that have examined the common characteristics of high performing schools. Some of the studies were reviews of other research that has taken place over many year on the same topic, while others examined these schools in specific settings and locations, such as high performing elementary schools in a large urban setting. This body of research represents findings from both Washington state and around the nation.
The content of each study was analyzed to determine what characteristics were found most often among high performing schools. Performance was usually measured in terms of high or dramatically improving scores on standardized tests, often in difficult circumstances such as high levels of poverty. In every case, there was no single factor that accounted for the success or improvement. Instead, the research found that high performing schools tend to have a combination of common characteristics. Some reports found as few as five characteristics, while others found many more. OSPI’s analysis of these characteristics narrowed these lists into nine areas. These schools have:
Each of these nine characteristics is explained in more detail below. For even more information, OSPI’s website provides links to various studies and organizations that have conducted this type of research.
Examination of this 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 have the following nine characteristics.
1. Clear and Shared Focus Everybody knows where they are going and why. The focus is on achieving a shared vision, and all understand their role in achieving the vision. The focus and vision are developed from common beliefs and values, creating a consistent direction for all involved.
2. High Standards and Expectations for All Students Teachers and staff believe that all students can learn and meet high standards. While recognizing that some students must overcome significant barriers, these obstacles are not seen as insurmountable. Students are offered an ambitious and rigorous course of study.
3. Effective School Leadership Effective instructional and administrative leadership is required to implement change processes. Effective leaders are proactive and seek help that is needed. They also nurture an instructional program and school culture conducive to learning and professional growth. Effective leaders can have different styles and roles—teachers and other staff, including those in the district office, often have a leadership role.
4. High Levels of Collaboration and Communication There is strong teamwork among teachers across all grades and with other staff. Everybody is involved and connected to each other, including parents and members of the community, to identify problems and work on solutions.
5. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Aligned with Standards The planned and actual curriculum are aligned with the essential academic learning requirements (EALRs). Research-based teaching strategies and materials are used. Staff understand the role of classroom and state assessments, what the assessments measure, and how student work is evaluated.
6. Frequent Monitoring of Learning and Teaching A steady cycle of different assessments identify students who needs help. More support and instruction time is provided, either during the school day or outside normal school hours, to students who need more help. Teaching is adjusted based on frequent monitoring of student progress and needs. Assessment results are used to focus and improve instructional programs.
7. Focused Professional Development A strong emphasis is placed on training staff in areas of most need. Feedback from learning and teaching focuses extensive and ongoing professional development. The support is also aligned with the school or district vision and objectives.
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 Family and Community Involvement There is a sense that all have a responsibility to educate students, not just the teachers and staff in schools. Parents, businesses, social service agencies, and community colleges/universities all play a vital role in this effort.