The Five Attributes of Successful Schools

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Students across the globe need effective schools. While the American school system as a whole may be falling behind international standards, there are still some schools that stand out.

Sure, the context of schooling will impact attributes that contribute to effectiveness in specific schools. But at the same time, there are attributes that contribute to effectiveness across schooling contexts. If we understand the attributes of effectiveness, we can observe which attributes exist at successful schools.

There are five common attributes that make up an effective school.

  1. Leadership
    The first attribute is quality leadership. Students perform better when the principal and school board members provide strong leadership. Effective leaders are visible, can successfully convey the school’s goals and visions, collaborate with teachers to enhance their skills, and are involved in the discovery of and solutions to problems.
  1. High Expectations
    The second attribute is having high expectations of students as well as teachers. High expectations of students have repeatedly been shown to have a positive impact on student performance. Students are somewhat dependent on the expectations placed on them during this period of their lives, as they are still shaping their personal sense of ability and esteem. Teachers who are expected to teach at high levels of effectiveness can reach the level of expectations, particularly when teacher evaluations and professional development are geared toward improving instructional quality.
  2. Ongoing Evaluation
    The third attribute of a successful school is the ongoing screening of student performance and development. Schools should use assessment data to compare their students with others from across the country. Effective use of assessment data allows schools to identify problematic areas of learning at the classroom and school levels, so that teachers can generate solutions to address the problems.
  3. Goals and Direction
    The fourth attribute of a successful school is the existence of goals and direction, According to research, the successful school principal actively constructs goals and then effectively communicates them to appropriate individuals (e.g., students, teachers, and the community at large). School principals must also be open and willing to incorporate innovation into goals for school processes and practices. So it’s important to invite input from all stakeholders in the process of developing school goals. Student performance has been shown to improve in schools where the entire school community works toward goals that are communicated and shared among all in the learning environment.
  4. Secure and Organized
    The fifth and final attribute of a successful school is the extent to which the school is secure and organized. For maximum learning to occur, students need to feel secure. Respect is a quality that is promoted and is a fundamental aspect of an effective and safe school. Successful schools also have a number of trained staff and programs, such as social workers, who work with difficult or troubled students before situations get out of hand.

Apart from the five attributes of a successful school already mentioned, the size of the school seems to be an attribute in the school’s effectiveness. Research has found that the smaller the school, the better students perform, especially in the case of older students. This is the rationale behind the concept of schools-within-schools. Students in smaller learning environments feel more connected to their peers and teachers, pass classes more often, and are more likely to go to college. Schools-within-schools involve creative use of the same teaching workforce to provide additional opportunities for learning for smaller groups of students or specialized teaching to students who require extra attention.


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