Toolkit: School Choice
The Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools (Second Edition) by G. Sue Shannon. Access the resource document and presentation from the State of Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction website. After reading the resource document or viewing the presentation, school staff may discuss the following action plan with their teams:

Characteristics of High-Performing Schools: Moving to Action
  1. Review and discuss the nine characteristics of high-performing schools.
  2. Which characteristics are consistently evident in your school?
  3. Which characteristics would you like to see improvement on?
  4. If your team began to work on one area of improvement, which area would you choose?
  5. What steps can you take to make improvements in that area? 
  6. What are the obstacles to success?
  7. What resources do you need to effect change?
  8. Use the SMART Goal Template to write a family engagement goal.
Goal-Building Ideas for Best Practices and School Choice
  • Work together on ways to emphasize success for all students such as academic and incentive programs, student recognition, positive behavior programs, and postsecondary success.
  • Work together on skill- and capacity-building in teachers and parents, as it relates to partnering together.
  • Examine communication and its effectiveness, and develop strategies for stronger school-to-home and home-to-school communication.
  • Explore possibilities of developing and/or using personalized learning plans for all students, including the use of parent portals and other technologies.
  • Consider ways to expand learning outside the school day using technology, parent and student activities and assignments, or after-school mentoring or programming on- or off-site.
  • Look at ways to involve community members and organizations in academically focused partnerships.
  • Discuss and establish goals for deeper learning beyond MCA-focused learning, which involve critical thinking, problem solving, and project-based work.
  • Look at ways parents and schools can partner together on healthy lifestyles and good decision-making.
  • Other ideas you may think of that are related to the Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools.

Examples of Goal-Setting

Dr. Joyce Epstein’s Six Types of Parent Involvement
: Parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision-making, collaborating with community.

Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools: A clear and shared focus; high standards and expectations for all students; effective school leadership; high levels of collaboration and communication; curriculum, instruction, and assessments aligned with state standards; frequent monitoring of learning and teaching; focused professional development; supportive learning environment; and high levels of family and community interest.

School Improvement Goal (SIG) Example: A middle school’s school improvement goal focuses on math. Its goal is to increase the percentage of students meeting standards on the MCA math assessments, increase the percentage of students exceeding standards on the MCA’s, and decrease the percentage of students not meeting MCA math standards.

School Action Team for Family Engagement Goal Examples: The School Action Team chooses to focus on one characteristic of high-performing schools – A Supportive Learning Environment.  The School Action Team examples include strategies that involve both school staff and parents.  A SMART goal is written, based on one type of parent involvement.

A Supportive Learning Environment

Parenting: Three math parent nights are designed for teachers, students, and parents together. These nights focus on a) how parents can help students with homework; math strategies parents can use in everyday life to support classroom learning; and in-service on using free web-based math resources.

Communicating: School staff takes training on how to utilize the parent portal of the student management system as a regular, ongoing communication tool. The web-based tool informs parents of grades, scope and sequence of curriculum, information on supporting resources, and provides a two-way vehicle for ongoing communication.  Parents are trained in how to use the portal at sessions during open houses and parent teacher conferences.

Volunteering: A volunteer network is set up for parents to work directly with students in their classes.  Parents are recruited and encouraged to assist in classrooms during math time, particularly during work time for students.

Learning at Home
: Teachers provide relevant home-support math materials to parents for each unit of study. This is done either with hard copy materials, or the use of free web-based resources. For students needing more intense assistance, the school provides sets of commercial math software programs which are interactive, allowing students (with parents’ help) to receive additional assistance.

Decision-making: Parents are asked (and trained) to become active decision-makers with their students in the area of math.  A personalized learning plan (PLP) system is put in place, which students, parents, teachers, and support staff all have access to.  The PLP is used to indicate student progress, and students, parents, and school staff all use student data to set goals and learning targets. The PLP provides regular, ongoing information and communication, which leads to mutual decision-making by the “team” supporting each student.

Collaborating: The school partners with a local church (apartment complex or other entity) to develop a volunteer-based after school program to assist students with school work, including math work. The entity provides space, while parents and other community members provide guidance and supervision to students in math. The school and its teaching staff, while not directly involved, provide support with resources and strategies.