And from both schools, I got the same message:
Set High Expectations for the Students
Both of these schools have explicitly stated high expectations for their students:
- everyone will succeed
- everyone will learn
- everyone will graduate and go to college
The children know what is expected.
The staff know what is expected.
And so the schools have a purpose, a direction, an uncompromisingly simple vision for their actions.
But there is more.
Expectations Are Supported with Actions
And here is the killer punch - it is not enough just to set high expectations - you need to make them achievable.
So, what is the plan? What do these schools plan to do?
Well, according to the KIPP commitment to excellence form, they will "teach in the best way we know how and we will do whatever it takes for our students to learn."
And these aren't empty promises.
These teachers go the extra mile.
They work extended hours - not for extra pay but to give the kids an extra opportunity.
They work some weekends - ditto.
They communicate regularly with parents - to keep the home-school relationship healthy and to make sure there is support for the students from home.
They actively promote positive self-talk - and accept no excuses for failure or incomplete work.
They are committed to the kids - I don't think I've even been at a school where every teacher goes out into the playground at lunchtime to spend time with the kids. Or if they aren't outside, they are inside doing extra time with kids who are struggling to keep up, giving them extra support.
They are consistent with what they say - these are not hollow words. The kids know that if the teachers tell them they will learn, then they know that everything possible will be done to make this happen.
It's pretty simple really:
- Set high expectations.
- Do whatever you can to achieve these goals.
I'm sure Mr Dickens would have approved.