When we talk about changing the culture of a school to make it
child
centered we must first look at the leadership of the school. An
effective school administrator must think of excellence as the great
sages have. Excellence, like life is a process, a road to be traveled. It
is not a way station where we rest. It implies effort and activity aimed at
moving along toward attainable perfection. Think of water which is to
seek and to find ways to move our schools on the high road from good
to better.

  This road from good to better begins with the teacher.  Research
has shown that most teachers perform in a traditional educational
model where the teacher works alone or in isolation in their own
classroom with very little communication with other teachers who are
involved with the education of the same students.

  Principals now have to create the educational environment that
teachers work in, which will allow all teachers to stop working in
isolation and allow them to transform their style of teaching to that of a
community where everyone works together in educating every student.

  When leaders show confidence in creating a child centered school
and allow teachers to humanize teaching, teachers will have the
enthusiasm that will make every child feel that they are well known and
connected to a number of concerned adults.  This school culture is
created when we divide a large school into small schools within a
larger school, allowing us to build relationships with our students and
supervise them throughout the day.

  By dividing schools into a series of mini-schools, we enhance the
concept that smaller administrative and educational units enhance the
opportunity for teacher empowerment, and parental involvement.
These small mini-schools create a nurturing and supportive
educational atmosphere for our students, where the environment is
conducive to learning, while at the same time providing the emotional
support and remediation necessary for academic success.

  Small schools serve two purposes, first, they encourage each child
to work to the fullest extent of his/her ability and second, they
encourage the teachers to grow, innovate and create exciting
educational models of their own design in which they can teach to their
own unique and creative strengths.

  Small schools allow experienced teachers to work closely with new
inexperienced teachers, mentoring them regarding the curriculum and
aligning it to child development strategies in order for them to meet the
challenges of a very complex profession.

  Within these learning environments the school leaders will show the
teachers how to talk to students about issues regarding respect in
order to create an environment or culture that is respectful and
accepting rather than merely tolerant. If we continue to focus our
energies on improving our communities and our civic responsibilities,
then we will continue on the road to becoming a successful school
which will have a culture to provide a strong educational program for
all of their students.

  How do we create this positive environment where people are
trusted, respected and involved?  The key is in the word community.
As a community we must constantly review our policies and
procedures to see if they are fair and appropriate. We must constantly
work on character education, life skills training, conflict resolution
skills, and other strategies for attaining solutions to problems.
Teaming and advisory concepts promote the goal that every child
should have at least one adult in the school who knows that child. We
know that a good mentoring program is very effective, especially for
kids who may not have the support of an adult at home.

  I have consulted with many schools to help create small schools
within larger schools and these new mini-schools have programs that
are teacher-created and teacher-directed and with the support of
dedicated and passionate administrators. I have seen these mini-
schools raise reading and math scores to acceptable levels. These
schools have built a foundation for lifelong learning so that students
continually grow and become conversant with the democratic ideals
upon which our nation was founded. These schools have provided
students with the skills and motivation necessary for them to become
contributing members of a democratic society.

  It is also time that our school’s educational leaders recognize their
responsibility to model the moral values and demonstrate the
character needed so that our students ultimately develop those
universally desirable qualities of honesty, compassion, generosity,
kindness and respect for people of all cultures. It is with these ends in
mind we write our goals and form our educational objectives so all
students in all  schools can succeed.        

  When we look at the needs of the children we are trying to teach,
we must also examine the role of the students’ families and their
impact on their childrens' outcomes in school. If many of our students
come from single parent homes. Less adult supervision means fewer
people to assist in the responsibilities of parenting, including such
things as guidance, discipline, and assisting with homework. As a
result, the school is assuming these responsibilities. Our students are
looking for independence, but they still need adult direction. When this
is lacking in the home, the school becomes the new family.

  When schools are divided into small teams or small learning
communities the schools become the extended family for many of our
youngsters. This new school structure provides a small group of
students with the opportunity to be known by their teachers. Student
advisories are a critical part of this environment. Safety nets,
especially in guidance, are created to help youngsters deal with this
difficult time of their lives.

  I cannot overstate that the most important element in making a
school work, is making every student feel that he is well known and
connected to a small number of concerned adults. This connection is
the foundation of creating a culture within the school.
5.   Meeting needs of all our students by creating learning communities where small
          groups of children are known by their teachers.
                                                                                                                                                                      Continued from "Home Page")
  We must discuss with students the importance and the power of into
improving our communities, then we will continue to be a successful
school. All of this must occur on a daily basis as part of the fabric of
the school and not as a curriculum program, but as the will to succeed.

  We must constantly work on character education, life skills training,
conflict resolution and other strategies for seeking peaceable solutions
knowledge base of the professional staff and participation by all.  Such
issues as tolerance, diversity, and conflict should be tied to the
curriculum. This is called integrating the fabric of the school into the
curriculum.

  By organizing into teams, we essentially build relationships with our
students which allow us to identify factors that lead to learning
difficulties and discipline problems. We are all responsible to observe
student behavior and respond with an emphasis on prevention. We
really need to focus on making children successful. Successful
students become part of the process rather than someone who will
fight the process.

  This is our greatest challenge, to encourage innovation,
experimentation and creativity. If our shared vision is to create a
community of life-long learners who will be the leading citizens of
tomorrow, we must begin meeting these challenges today.

  With encouragement from the administration, the staff will be able to
create alternative programs which became mini-schools in their own
right and extend the concept of family within a relatively large
educational institution. Each new program that teachers create, allows
teachers to address the educational and personal needs of the
individual child by scaling down the often-daunting barriers of
largeness and anonymity.

  The results of this approach will be seen in improved reading and
math scores. Teaching teams provide an excellent opportunity to focus
on the learning needs of pupils. Interdisciplinary teams consisting of
two to five teachers plan and teach two or more classes during the
same periods of the day. This allows teaming teachers to coordinate
an interdisciplinary approach to the curriculum for a common group of
students. This type of scheduling permits the teachers who teach at
the same time to also be available for a common planning period.
Teams of teachers are also advisories to students and are able to
develop an instructional program by looking at various assessments
and consulting with other specialists on staff. Results of these
conferences are used to identify those children in the school whom we
deem to be in need of additional services.  

  By having our children in mini-schools where there is team teaching,
we create for each child a feeling of belonging and ownership. When
students increasingly perceive themselves as stake holders in the
school through identification with a particular program or mini-school,
we begin to see not only improved academic performance, but also
improved attendance and attitudes toward school. This perceptual
shift combined with strong teaching methodologies and an emphasis
on literacy and math, parental involvement, increased guidance
services, individualized attention and an enriched environment reaps
bountiful educational rewards. An enriched environment which
includes extensive classroom libraries, an abundance of resources
and deployment of the latest technology will also have a profound
effect on student outcomes.

  It is our goal to organize our schools to meet the needs of all of
our students.  The different needs of adolescents place extraordinary
demands on schools to provide a structure that will accommodate
these dissimilarities. Thus, we must create the environment which will
let this happen. By meeting this challenge, to encourage innovation,
experimentation and creativity and  by focusing our  shared vision is to
create a community of life-long learners.

  Do not get confused. A school-within-a-school is not a mini-school.  
When we create a school-within-a-school model, we create an
autonomous school with its own administration which needs to
negotiate with the other schools within the same building for the use of
the cafeteria, gyms, classrooms, libraries, etc., and it creates
confusion with issues of staffing, safety and building operation.

  By creating small mini-schools in larger schools rather than creating
a  school-within-a-school we replicate the model of smaller schools
with their own staff and students, within the walls of larger schools. In
this model, the mini-school becomes a separate entity in itself with its
focus only on the staffing and educational issues of running a
mini-school.         

  By creating mini-schools within a larger school, all the mini-schools
that function within the same school structure will harmoniously share
the same resources: expertise of school administrators, support staff
and experienced teachers.

  Once again I must emphasize that the goal of these mini schools are
not only to ensure success for their students, but they also afford the
opportunity for the students to show improved attendance, behavior,
satisfaction and greater self-esteem which many educators feel is the
backbone for student success.

  The mini-school models also let teachers create their own learning
environment in which their visions of successful schools can be
realized. By allowing teachers to generate distinctive environments
where there can be greater student success, will also allow all of the
mini-school teachers to feel greater self-esteem which is the number
one factor for improving instruction, and enhancing morale.
SAY NO - Schools Within Schools
SAY YES - Mini Schools