Who is Responsible for Student Success? (and other questions that keep me up at night…)

“On most mornings, Nabil Romero’s mother would drive him and his brother to school at the Roybal Learning Center in Los Angeles. One morning when their mother wasn’t able to drive them, the two boys had to take two Los Angeles city buses to get to school.The buses were delayed that morning and the two boys arrived at school thirty minutes late. As they approached the school building an officer stopped them and asked why they weren’t in school. Nabil tried to explain, but the officer didn’t listen; instead he placed the boys in handcuffs and issued them both tickets for truancy. Nabil was then sent to detention for the day, given no schoolwork, and had to miss all of his classes. Nabil pointed out the irony at the Labor Community Strategy Center Public Hearings in 2011: ‘For being 40 minutes late, I missed a vital day in class’ (Martinez, Chandler and Latham, 2013).”

Loss of instructional time is a reality for many school-age children. Nabil’s situation was extreme, however, the end result may play itself out in many ways–largely as a result of strategies and/or policies that deter and interfere with school success. Any loss of instructional time typically results in a loss of achievement. As a former school administrator, ensuring that each of my students had ample and effective instructional time was always at the forefront of my decision making. Was I doing enough to ensure that our day had enough instructional time? Did teachers have enough time to plan for instruction? Was everyone aware of the importance of highly effective instructional time? Were there enough volunteers to help maximize instructional time? Was I the only one worried about instructional time? And ultimately, who is responsible for student success? These questions (and others you’ll see) kept me up at night as I tirelessly worked to lead my school. It was important to me to ensure that the decisions I made permeated and reflected all aspects of the school culture and climate. This was important to me because how a school chooses to support achievement is directly identified by its culture and climate. School strategies and policies reflect what is important to a school; i.e., the school culture. Whereas the school climate reflects the collective mood or morale of a school.
Focusing on school culture and climate is an important factor in the discussion of school success. But have you ever thought about the strategies that we engage in everyday as educators that may interfere with school success? Maybe it is a strategy/policy that on the surface seems like a good idea but may impact the relationship that you have with a parent. Or perhaps, it is a strategy/policy that prevents a student who needs an energy outlet to stay on task from attending recess. If it results in a loss of instructional time, who really suffers? The focus should always be on creating a school culture that empowers success! Educational experts agree: school success is everyone’s responsibility!
A wealth of resources exist that highlight this vision of school success. In the book I Wish My Teacher Knew….., Kyle Schwartz (2016) offers an eye-opening reflection of an easy strategy that she had been overlooking to help her connect with her students and build a positive classroom culture. She took the time to ask one question, “What do you wish that I knew about you?” As evidenced in the recent New York Times edited reprint the results were poignant:
In publishing the book, Schwartz (2016) felt that it was important to remember two important points, “Kids don’t learn when they don’t feel safe or valued,” and “That it is essential for teachers and families to be partners.”
But what do you do when you think that a school policy is interfering with school success? Collectively, it is the responsibility of many to take a look at the issue and problem solve to fix it. If in-school suspension isn’t supporting instruction, think about what is happening during this time. Think outside of the box: maybe substitute this time with something that teaches a skill to help with discipline like yoga or meditation? Is there expertise in the community to help with this idea? Would a place where kids are encouraged to sit and go through practices like breathing or meditation help them calm down and re-center?
Please join us as we continue this discussion in TMLC’s Navigator, where our TMI Consultants Sarah McNeil and Gail Sansome take a look at systemic discipline policies and its subsequent impact on success and highlight leadership strategies used by Linda Cliatt-Wayman. We’ve highlighted her before, but this TED Talk is worth another look! Lastly, we’ve included two lesson plan ideas for classrooms that support student achievement by focusing on metacognition and depth of knowledge.
And, If you are looking for books to add to your Amazon shopping cart, make sure to select the following: 

  • Today I Made a Difference: A Collection of Inspirational Stories from America’s Top Educators by Joseph W. Underwood
  • The Bridge to Brilliance: How One Principal in a Tough Community Is Inspiring the World by Nadia Lopez
  • I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids by Kyle Schwartz
  • Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders by Randall B. Lindsey (Editor), Kikanza Nuri-Robins (Editor), Raymond D. (Dewey) Terrell (Editor)
  • Child and Family Advocacy: The Complete Guide to Child Advocacy and Education for Parents, Teachers, Advocates, and Social Workers by Steven R. Isham


De La Cruz, D. (2016, August 31). What Kids Wish Their Teachers Knew. The New York Times, 2016. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/2bBoqi5.
Martinez, T., Chandler, A., & Latham, N. (2013). Case Study: School Discipline Reform in California. Building Healthy Communities.
Schwartz, K. (2016.) I wish my teacher knew: How One question can change everything for our kids. United States: Da Capo Lifelong.
Thompson, D. (2016, September 24). Baltimore Elementary School Nixes Detention for Mindful Meditation. Vibe, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.vibe.com/2016/09/baltimore-elementary-school-nixes-detention-for-mindful-meditation/.

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Posted in blog, Educator Voices, General, K-5, Leadership, TMLC

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