Reconstitution, in the view of manager Alfred Williams, the board’s reconstitution manager, is all about making schools into places where students and staff want to work and succeed. He figures that even at schools that are progressing nicely, the make-over will take at least two to three years.
Williams, who previously was director of personnel for the Austin Public Schools in Austin, Texas, has developed the following checklist to gauge schools’ progress:
1. Leadership is foremost. Motivating staff and developing their ownership of what goes on in a school are absolutely crucial, Williams says.
2. Parent involvement and community and business partnerships are essential for connecting the school to its community. In the process, students derive a sense of belonging, he says.
3. The school’s relationship with its external partner should promote change and professional development among teachers. “Their feet are being held to the fire,” Williams says. “These schools need someone who’s really managing to help them. If a partner isn’t working out, we encourage the school to find someone else.”
4. Collaboration among teachers is essential. Professional development should cause teachers to become excited about their role as educators and to share improvement strategies with each other.
5. Probation managers must have the know-how to guide their schools.
6. School operations managers, who oversee financial and day-to-day operations, must clear logistical roadblocks to educational change.
7. Relationships among and between students and staff should be respectful. Williams says he looks for signs that the school believes that its students can succeed. “You have to create challenges, and you have to convince the student that the sky is the limit as far as his dreams,” he says. “If you can build self-esteem in the student, you can do miracles. For this, once again, you have to have the right teachers and the right leadership.”
8. Curriculum instruction must meet national and state standards, and students must be held accountable.
9. Sound reading and math programs must be put into place.
10. The general atmosphere of the school must be positive. It should be safe, clean and welcoming, with floors swept, facilities maintained and washrooms clean and stocked with soap and paper. The state of a school’s washrooms is a good indicator of a school’s attitude toward its students, Williams says.
11. Sports teams and extracurricular activities are a plus because they encourage students to care about belonging to the school.
12. The school must have a technology program that includes plans for training teachers to use the equipment and integrate technology into their teaching.