While scrolling through checklists for classroom and school walkthroughs for a project I am working on, I was reminded of my early days in teaching. I had just transferred from the city school system to the county and was assigned mandatory professional development. Project U.S.E., or Using Skills Effectively, was a year-long series of learning, practicing, and observations. However, when I transferred, I already had four years of teaching sixth grade under my belt and had babysat and taught three-year-old children while earning my associate degree. I had experience. I wasn’t sure what this training would help me do, but I knew the presenter well and looked forward to learning new things.
It was the mid-nineties, and Larry Lezotte had published a few books on effective schools. The training series focused on his work. He lists the following as 7 Correlates of Effective Schools in his book, Correlates of Effective Schools: The First and Second Generation (1991):
- Instructional leadership.
- Clear and focused mission.
- Safe and orderly environment.
- Climate of high expectations.
- Frequent monitoring of student progress.
- Positive home-school relations.
- Opportunity to learn and student time on task.
Since the framework’s publication in 1991, others have identified their own or added additional correlates of effective schools based on the latest research and school data. For example, the Learning Policy Institute published California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds as part of its Positive Outliers Series in 2019. This report lists several commonalities for outlier schools, including a widely shared, well-enacted vision, continuous leadership, and engagement of families. The report also stresses the importance of a climate of high expectations, as noted in Lezotte’s work. Podolsky et al. (2019) state, “… young people need to be able to think critically, collaborate effectively, communicate clearly, solve complex problems, and continue to learn independently throughout their lives” (p. iv). The report highlights an additional determiner of effective schools—teacher preparedness. The research team found that “the proportion of teachers holding less than a full credential (i.e., an intern credential, temporary or short-term permit, or waiver for their teaching position) shows a strong negative association with student achievement for all student groups” (p. iv).
Based on my experiences in hundreds of schools observing literacy instruction in the past 20 years, I would add student practice opportunities to my list. While attending a training on Enhanced Core Reading Instruction, the presenter, Carol Dissen, discussed the value of student practice. I realized that teachers often do not give students ample practice opportunities. Typically, teachers ask 1–3 students to demonstrate their learning and then move on to the next concept. One to three opportunities are simply not enough for automaticity when learning. Our goal has always been to teach to mastery and not just “cover” the standards.
Lezotte’s research still holds true as a foundation for effective schools. It has become part of the way I teach, present professional development, and interact as an educator. Look at the list again. As you settle into a new school year, how will you create an effective school? What would you add to the list?
Authors: Patricia Cox & Kimilee Norman-Goins, Region 7 Comprehensive Center
Lezotte, L. W. (1991). Correlates of effective schools: The first and second generation. Effective Schools Products, Ltd.
Podolsky, A., Darling-Hammond, L., Doss, C., & Reardon, S. (2019). California’s positive outliers: Districts beating the odds. Learning Policy Institute.