As a board member and a parent I reflect on many questions about schools, but the one I think about the most is “What makes a school a great school?” Parents, teachers, coworkers, and others tell me that their child attends a great school, or that they moved into a certain part of town because of the good schools, or they ask me which schools are the best schools?
The federal government has spent quite a bit of time and money trying to define what makes a school a good school. With mandates like “No Child Left Behind” schools are assigned grades based on performance. The State of South Carolina has developed a new set of guidelines for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver. Due to differing criteria you may see a school rated as an A on one rating system and a C on the other.
The data which the federal government and the state uses to assign grades to schools is important and it helps to provide school administrators and board members specific areas to focus on for improvements. However, I don’t believe that the data which is analyzed as part of these mandates account for everything that makes a school a good school. I once had someone tell me, before I was a parent, what makes a good school good is a positive interaction between you, your child, and the teacher. I have also had state-wide experts tell me that they have seen better teaching in some schools that are rated poorly than they observed in schools that are highly rated.
So, as I continue to reflect on this issue at the beginning of this new school year, I have decided to ask you, what makes a school a good school? You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tweet me #goodschool (@jamesmanningsc), or Facebook me (jamesmanningsc). I look forward to hearing from you!
Richland Two School Board Trustee