The simple secrets to success at high performing, high needs schools
For the last three years I’ve been lucky to attend high-needs, high-performing school visits co-sponsored by our organization, Stand for Children and a Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) across the state. The schools selected for these visits are over-coming challenges and continue to do great things for students.
The criteria for the schools spotlighted is strict, it must serve a population of students, 75% and above, who qualify as economically disadvantaged and has earned a school performance score of either ‘A’ or ‘B’ in the 2017-2018 school year. 112 schools across the state met this criteria last school year, unfortunately those 112 schools are the outliers when it comes to serving students and families experiencing economic hardships.
At every school we visit there is an acknowledgement that students who come from under-resourced communities are forced to deal with challenges that many of their counterparts don’t have to face on a daily basis and that often times those challenges carry over into their lives at school. The difference at these 112 schools is that fact is never used as an excuse for why students aren’t receiving the support they need to achieve.
“A key component (of our school) is culture, a culture of student’s firs and adults second. We don’t perform from that place of ‘high poverty’, we never treat them as if that’s all they are.” -Dr. Nakia Perkins, Principal at Audubon Elementary School.
So what’s the secret sauce? How are these schools and educators able to support and grow students at rates on-pace with their peers from more affluent home lives? From what I’ve observed over the last three years and over a dozen school visits it starts with a team of adults and leaders who care, who believe the children in their classroom are capable of achieving and it will take differentiated approaches to each child to reach him or her but each child is held to the same expectation and belief that they can achieve, with the right supports in place.
“You have to believe. You have to have a vision for your school, never give up. Believe that every child in your school matters, is valued, and is important.” - Linda Freeman, principal of Jeanerette Senior High School.
The teams of educators and administrators, the leadership they show, the purposeful and thoughtful way they approach teaching and learning with compassion and growth in mind is supporting amazing results for students across the state.