Effective Schools Checklist

Don’t blame the parents. Don’t blame the kids. Don’t blame the neighborhood.
If we want effective schools let’s look at the schools.
Ron Edmonds of Harvard who put the term “Effective Schools” on the map with his speech “Some Schools Work and more Can” in 1978 said

We can whenever, and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need, in order to do this. Whether we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.”

It’s a scandal! Nearly 30 years later most school people don’t have an inkling about these findings, or if they do are more prone to debate or ignore the research than implement it.
Of course, this is typical because there is little up-take within a system when there is no motivation to improve (or worse still, a feeling that improvements aren’t necessary – the problems will go away).
What we need is to open up the discussions – let parents in on the scene to ensure effective schools. You can be sure, parents won’t let the matter die or gather dust for another 30 years! Resolve, commitment, the will to do things comes when there is a “dynamic” going on – when parents and educators CARE together.

We can’t let another two generations of school children slip through.  This checklist is from the 1983 archives of Education Advisory, a consumer service for parents in the 70′ & 80’s.

(from the original work of Ron Edmonds, Harvard, 1978)

___ 1. Instructional Leadership Principal is an effective communicator (with staff, parents, students, school boards), an effective supervisor, & the instructional leader in the school
___ 2. Focused School Mission General consensus by the school community (staff, parents, students ) on goals, priorities, assessment, accountability. The mission statement is specified and reviewed periodically.
___ 3. Orderly Environment Purposeful atmosphere, not oppressive, and is conducive to teaching and learning.
___ 4.High Expectations Demonstrated high expectations not only for all students but for staff as well. The belief is that students are capable and able to achieve, that teachers are capable and not powerless to make a difference.
___ 5. Mastery of Basic Skills In particular, basic reading, writing and math skills are emphasized with back-up alternatives available for students with special learning needs.
___ 6. Frequent Monitoring of Results Means exist to monitor student progress in relationship to instructional objectives (and results can be easily conveyed to parents).
___ Means to monitor teacher effectiveness
___ A system of monitoring school goals
___ 7. Meaningful Parent Involvement Parents are kept well-informed re: programs, goals, etc. There is ample opportunity for them to keep in touch with their child’s progress. They are consulted for feedback about the school and when changes are foreseen Parent-initiated contact with the school is encouraged.
___* 8. Avoidance of Pitfalls Up-to-date awareness of good educational practice plus retaining currency in the field concerning promising and discredited practices.

*Most “effective schools studies” repeat the first 7 points. But, Edmonds’ original work stressed “one of the cardinal characteristics of effective schools is that they are as anxious to avoid things that don’t work as they are committed to implement things that do.”

2 Responses to “Effective Schools Checklist”

  • Omitted from the Effective Schools Checklist of Ron Edmonds is the critical factor of Staff Development identified in “The School Makes The Difference” research authored in 1986. Some indicators of inclusion of this factor include:
    – “Inservice training is provided for teachers to improve their effectiveness.
    – “Schools with strong ongoing staff development programs closely tied to the instructional program have a positive effect on student performance.”
    – “Teachers are seen as important resources and are encouraged to share experience and expertise.”


  • Yes, your points do add to the Effective Schools Checklist. Ron Edmonds started the ball rolling, and much advance has been made along the way. (There are many references on the Internet.) Unfortunately, the application of these approaches lags far behind the theory.

    Where is the resistance, and why? Is it inertia — leave well enough alone, or are employee groups actively obstructing? There are tons of books and Google (and other search engines) that point to teacher union obstructionism.

    Or are consumers not well enough informed and equipped to command responsiveness and timely application of good practice? Here in British Columbia we have had mandated parent advisory councils in the schools since 1989 but they have not had the voice required to bring things up to speed.

    I see there is a growing movement called “No Excuses” and wonder how far that will go in applying Effective Schools Principles.

    Evaluations and achievement scores do help in showing where schools stand as far as standards (provincial, state, federal, international, whatever) go, but do they really equip people to obtain accountability and commitment to improve?

    What I do find hopeful is the new move to have value-added assessment of students and schools. Please see the recent news report from Cleveland, Ohio.


    This approach equips parents and teachers with a child’s growth potential at the start of a period, and shows how much benefit is accrued through the school and teaching experience.

    I as a parent and grandparent, aware of how very different children are, like this approach, which really brings us back to Ron Edmonds and his famous 1978 quote:

    “We can whenever, and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need, in order to do this. Whether we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.”

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