How to Save a Failing School

Question: How can a failing school be turned around?

\r\n

Pedro Noguera:  Well I say you have to focus on three areas and you have to focus on them simultaneously.  First you have to focus on the culture of the school, the attitudes, values, beliefs, the norms, the relationships.  Typically failing schools have dysfunctional cultures, a culture of blame, a culture where not working, not teaching is accepted and if you can’t find ways to change that you can’t really move a school, so you really need to focus on creating a culture that is focused on accountability, on achievement, on learning, a culture that is focused on creating stronger relationships between adults and kids with a clarity around mission.

\r\n

In addition to focusing on culture you have to address the systems in place, systems for how you make sure that the curriculum is in place, for how you make sure that interventions that draw on best practices are being applied to kids, systems that allow you to use technology effectively, that allow you to diagnose learning needs of kids effectively, so there are systems that also have to be put in place, so that the system that is at the school is not just dependent upon the whims of individuals, but it can function even if you have a change in teacher or principal, the school still functions as an organization that has a clarity around its purpose.

\r\n

And then the third key ingredient is always leadership.  You have to have people in leadership roles who have vision, who have the ability to motivate, inspire the people around them, who have the ability to share responsibility, to mobilize and recruit resources for that school.  You need leadership to attract good teachers.  You need leadership to sustain good teachers because without a good principal in place teachers tend to suffer, so leadership is a critical variable in all this.  Leaders who know how to generate a sense of buy in from the staff and then from students and the parents are really what it takes to create highly effective schools.

Recorded on January 28, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

\r\n

When students are flunking in high numbers, teachers and administrators must take three crucial steps.

Why Henry David Thoreau was drawn to yoga

The famed author headed to the pond thanks to Indian philosophy.

Image: Public Domain / Shutterstock / Big Think
Personal Growth
  • The famed author was heavily influenced by Indian literature, informing his decision to self-exile on Walden Pond.
  • He was introduced to these texts by his good friend's father, William Emerson.
  • Yoga philosophy was in America a century before any physical practices were introduced.
Keep reading Show less

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
Sponsored
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less
Photo: Shutterstock / Big Think
Personal Growth
    • A recent study from the Department of Health and Human Services found that 80 percent of Americans don't exercise enough.
    • Small breaks from work add up, causing experts to recommend short doses of movement rather than waiting to do longer workouts.
    • Rethinking what exercise is can help you frame how you move throughout your day.
    Keep reading Show less