So, here's what's working at my school:
- Families choose to come to our school. Yes, they're chosen by lottery that parents have to enter, which weeds out the parents who don't pay any attention to their kids education. It would be better if every school in our district were a school of choice. What would happen if everyone chose their school? Would that give a psychological bump?
- Every family is involved. 100% of parents attend conferences, because the teachers relentlessly track those who don't show. It's not easy. Some parents, even though they signed up for this school, can't or won't take 15 minutes twice a year to meet with their kid's teacher.
- We have autonomy of curriculum and staffing. We don't have to teach a script, or even use the district-approved textbooks, as long as we teach the standards. Teachers and principals are no longer placed at our school, and teachers have a strong voice in the interview process for new colleagues.
- We have an open-door policy. Anyone is welcome to visit any time without scheduling it beforehand (of course, visitors have to sign in and everything for safety, but people walk into the classroom without warning). This includes parents, community members, other teachers at our school, visitors from other schools, college students working on teaching credentials, and anyone else.
- We work hard. We handle the details through email, which frees up staff meeting time for real collaboration. We haven't jumped on the formal PLC bandwagon, but we work in teams by grade level, subject area, or ad-hoc interest groups. We analyze data, but don't obsess over it.
- We work hard, but we try not to burn anyone out. When someone is starting to get too stressed out, the rest of us step in to alleviate the pressure
- We work hard, and we get to focus on teaching. Social events and some of the field trips are handled by the PTSA. If the parents don't step up and organize social events, they don't happen, and that's okay.
- The principal is a leader, not a glory hound. We defer to him when necessary, but we take responsibility, step up, and don't wait to be told what to do.
There's more, but I'd like to watch the interview thats on MSNBC's Education Nation right now, so I'll probably do a part II later.