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How do you prove Excellence in a school?

Posted by Scott Barron on Mar 4, 2014 11:00:41 AM
Scott Barron

describe the imageA survey of school websites produced this wordle image. The size of each word is indicative of the frequency of its usage on each page. As you can see, "Excellence" is used consistently and persistently as a means of communicating the high standards and quality of the program. But how does the school leader support this statement? What evidence can the faculty offer to support the school's "Excellence" claim?

Guest Response by Mary Anne Hipp

When interviewing teachers at various schools across the US, I hear many teachers comment on their faculty's commitment to the students-- comments like, "we are family here," and, "we just want every student to succeed," make me believe the culture within that school and community defines the expectations and the teachers will give 110% to reach those expectations. Similarly, in schools of excellence, we also interview many students and get similar responses. When the teachers want the best and that message is conveyed to the students, the school is on the road to excellence. And for some reason, those same schools seem to have strong, committed, passionate leadership. So is it one, two or three parts to the equation?

(Thank you, Mary Anne! We really admire your work with AdvancED accreditation leadership)


Excellence implies comparison to other options that, of course, are inferior. To what is the school being compared? Relative to how bad it used to be? To the other "less-than-adequate" schools in the area? Or should Excellence be determined by comparison to the ideal fulfillment of the school's mission?

We have the privilege of visiting many, many schools throughout the year, and as we're conducting school assessments we look for these qualities to evaluate Excellence.

A School of Excellence is able to quantitatively and accurately demonstrate that students are achieving at or above their capacity to learn. Standardized testing isn't the perfect assessment model, but it is inevitably part of the portfolio of methods used to document levels of mastery. Meaningful Student Product is another valuable means of validating the quality of the school's program.

A School of Excellence has 80% or more high performing faculty. A school is only as good as it's ability to recruit and retain most effective teachers and coaches. Faculty culture is a priority in this school, making it everyone's job and someone's job.

A School of Excellence has a sustaining school board that consistently exercises best practices in governance, leadership, and learning. The board provides vision, viability, and visibility for the school, maintaining a healthy, supportive relationship with the chief administrator.

A School of Excellence consistently achieves at least 90% student re-enrollment, sustaining a high degree of momentum with families who actively create word-of-mouth marketing on the grapevine to attract new students.

A School of Excellence has an operational plan to achieve scalability and sustainability. Economies of scale are appropriately used to reduce expenses, and quality standards are established and measured throughout the organization for continuous improvement.


Topics: School Design, School Culture, Teacher Quality, School Growth, Board Culture, Leadership, Faculty, Culture

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