California Educator

APRIL 2010

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Research shows ingredients of good schools The school a child attends can shape the student’s view of the world. Studies show that school performance can influ- ence a person’s self-worth over the course of a lifetime, and can be a strong predictor of future success. It’s no wonder, then, that parents go to great lengths to make sure their child receives a quality education when selecting a school. Parents have been known to camp out overnight at school sites before registration, pretend to live elsewhere, and even move to new cities to gain attendance to better schools. Strangely, there is little in the way of hard research as to what really makes a good school. The Chicago Journal has lik- ened the creation of a good school to bak- ing ingredients: “A good school, it turns out, is a lot like a cake. Put in sugar, eggs and oil, but forget the flour, and all you end up with is a sweet, sloppy mess. With- out all the right ingredients, success will continually evade you.” According to the 1994 study “What Makes a Good School?” by UCLA’s Center for Research on Evaluation, “For all the changes implemented in the American classroom, parents and the community in general are ill-prepared to measure the quality of the schools that serve them. As consumers of education, parents and other taxpayers have a right to know if their schools are doing a good job.” The study identified qualities that set successful schools apart. Good schools, says the study, have strong and profession- al administrators and teachers; a broad curriculum available to all students; a phi- losophy that says all children can learn, coupled with high expectations for all stu- dents; a climate that’s safe, clean, caring and well-organized; an ongoing assess- ment system that supports good instruc- tion; and a high level of parent and com- When the International Society for Technology in Education asked students what made a good school, the students included the following: > The learning environment should be safe. > Learning spaces should be open and airy. > Activities should be hands-on and related to real-world work. > An array of technology tools and access should be available at all times, from home and school. > Varied learning styles should be honored. > Emotional and intellectual support should be offered to students. munity involvement and support. The study also concludes that the con- What makes a good school? Teri Yamada, Asian studies teacher, CSU Long Beach, California Faculty Association campus president I’m the task force leader on the committee dubbed “Task Force on Quality Education at the CSU,” and we’ve just started meeting about this issue. A good university should have breadth and depth of general education classes, because we have to train students facing a fu- ture where they may have to change jobs eight times. A good school does not have a narrow focus on education, and produces students who have great problem-solving and communication skills, so they understand culture and globalization. A good school does not have huge classes, even though there is pressure to have huge classes, because it’s antithetical to graduating and retaining students. And even good col- leges offer remediation courses, because students who take them graduate at the same rate as students who don’t take them. If we don’t offer them, low-income students and students of color will be especially impacted. It’s important to talk about these things, because I fear this system is being de- stroyed. figuration of the school or the socioeco- nomic standard of the neighborhood does not determine whether a school is good and notes that there are successful schools in the inner cities of America and unsuc- cessful ones in the country’s wealthy sub- urbs. Time magazine asked what makes a good school in 1997. “There are no stock answers, like wardrobe or testing or size,” it concluded. “A good school, like a good class, is run by someone with vision, pas- sion and compassion. A good school has teachers who still enjoy the challenge, no matter what their age or experience. A good school prepares its students not just for the SATs or the ACTs, but also for the world out there.” CTA has been involved in the conversa- tion about what makes a good school and has been at the forefront of researching how investment in schools, instead of pun- ishment, can make them better. The pre- liminary data shows that the Quality Edu- cation Investment Act (QEIA) is boosting achievement at hundreds of the state’s 16 California Educator | APRIL 2010

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