Friday, March 14, 2008

High Poverty Learners

Dr. William H. Parrett, the Director of the Center for School Improvement & Policy Studies and Professor of Education at Boise State University, has shared some thoughts that have given me a new perspective when working with staff & students in high-poverty schools. He suggests that HPHP (High-Performing High-Poverty) schools have staff who are characterized by the following: (1) Caring Relationships; (2) High Expectations; (3) Courage & Will; and (4) Commitment to Action. I would like to focus specifically on the last three attributes: high expectations, courage & will, and commitment to action. In working with superintendents, principals, and teachers, I have found that most of them understand the importance of caring relationships. However, many of the leaders in our schools are so focused on "maintaining the status quo", that they are clearly inhibited in their ability to make decisions that might ultimately result in higher student achievement. As Dr. Parrett has suggested, many people are too "enamored" with the challenges or obstacles that apparently prevent them from meeting the needs of students. As he has stated, we must remind ourselves to "Stop admiring the problem(s)!" We understand that challenges exist when working with high-poverty students. But then we must ask the next (and most important) question: What are we going to do about it? The final step is to have the courage & will to take action. We must not be satisfied that we "have tried" different options. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the opportunity for success of ALL students. As Richard Elmore has stated, there are three questions school leaders must ask: (1) What do we want students to know?; (2) How will we know when they've learned it?; and (3) What will we DO when they have not learned it? Once again, it is imperative that we encourage our leaders to exhibit the courage and will to commit to action that will ultimately result in the opportunity for success for all students....NO MORE EXCUSES!

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