Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 9/9.3.1

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The Recipe for an Effective School

By Jordan Freeman

Learning Targets

Readers should know

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  • what role teachers play in the classroom
  • the effects of feedback
  • how to identify a positive classroom environment

in an effective school


It takes a lot to run a school, an effective one at that. There are several important factors necessary in order to maintain a successful school. A few of these include an excellent teaching staff and a positive classroom environment. "To be good and effective, a school should have a clear organization, characterized by stated missions, goals, values, and standards of performance" (Ninan 2006).

Teachers: the building blocks of life

"Society demands that teachers should be men or women with qualities of both head and heart" (Ninan 2006). The dictionary defines a teacher as "one whose occupation is to instruct," but a teacher is and offers much more that that ( Teachers are a fundamental element in the life of a student. A teacher must possess numerous qualities in order to be effective with both their head and heart. Some of these qualities include motivation, compassion, encouragement, communication, and challenging the student (Patten 2003).

In an ineffective school, a teacher cannot control their students. Kraut states, "a teacher cannot teach unless his/her classroom is orderly" (2000, p. 103). This goes to show that it is the responsibility of the teacher to manage his or her class. Sadker and Zittleman have identified 5 key factors in regards to what it takes to have and maintain an effective school. The first of these factors is strong leadership. A teacher must be prepared, organized, and on time for everything (Ninan 2006). By doing this, the teacher sets a prime example for the students to follow.

Many studies show that well-qualified teachers (with certifications, acquired skills, extra training, etc.) further enhance a student's learning potential. Teacher training ranked number six on the top nine things that need to be changed to make a school effective (Kearns and Harvey, 2000, p. 187). Sadker and Zittleman state that under qualified as well as uncertified teachers serve at the academic expense of the students (2007).

Feedback and Expectations: helpful not hurtful

It is essential that teachers provide a positive learning environment for their students. This feat can be accomplished through several strategies including, but not limited to high expectations and feedback.

One of Sadker and Zittleman's key points to an effective school is high expectations. In the past, expectations were standards to measure up to or be labeled by (Ninan 2006). Today teachers are trying to break that mold and are encouraged to focus on the positives. "In effective schools, teachers hold high expectations that students can learn, and they translate these expectations into behaviors" (Sadker and Zittleman, 2007).

Kearns and Harvey have compiled a list of the top nine goals in reforming an ineffective school into an effective school with number two being high expectations. They state that, "high expectations create a climate in which educators, parents, and citizens understand that all children can learn and all of them can achieve at very high and demanding levels" (2000, p. 187). Furthermore, these goals must be apparent in all aspects of classroom work (Baker, Herman, and Bain, 3). Ninan states that students, "perform better in schools where teachers desist from 'labeling' and such other negative measures, and express high, but reasonable expectations about their academic performance as also responsible behavior" (2006). In addition, students that are assigned important responsibilities and classroom jobs exude greater behavior as well as attendance because they are involved in meaningful activities (Ninan 2006).

Click on this link to see what the NEA says it takes to have an effective learning environment. [1]

Feedback is defined as "a reaction or response to a particular process or activity" ( There are many types of feedback, and the way that teachers convey it can impact the student. Feedback can also be used to show what is and is not permitted while at school. Teachers must be careful in what they say or do because negative feedback can be extremely traumatic to younger students. On the other hand, excessive positive feedback can put too much stress to excel on the student. Positive feedback is necessary to boost the students' morale, and in turn it will influence other positive actions.

In an ineffective school, "performance, results, achievement, success" are stressed by teachers and administrators (Kohn, 1999, p. 27). The overemphasizing leads to fear of failure and challenges, in addition to lowering the student's learning quality (Kohn, 1999, p. 28).

Direct and immediate feedback such as a compliment or scolding are essential in the classroom. "Researchers have found that the most immediate direct feedback like praise or approval had the strongest association with positive pupil behavior, whereas higher incidence of punishments resulted in negative outcomes of behavior ... quiet reprimands are more effective than loud and frequent nagging" (Ninan 2006).

Assigning work is a way for teachers to use feedback because it allows them to assess and help the students. "When homework is graded and commented on, achievement is increased from the 50th to nearly the 80th percentile" (Sadker and Zittleman, 2007).

Safety and Behavior Management

School safety is an important issue that should be addressed during the student's earlier years. Though there have been many horrific incidences occurring in schools worldwide, "schools today are safer than they have been in years" (Sadker and Zittleman, 2007). Sadker and Zittleman report that "nearly all public school teachers (98%) and most students (93%) report feeling safe in schools" (2007).

Ninan states that safe schools focus on achievement in terms of academics, involvement with the community and parents, the mission of the school, and everyone being treated with respect (2006). Schools provide a safe haven for many as an escape from the tough outside world.

"One girl, who did not have money to buy a winter coat or glasses to see the chalkboard, rode the subway 1 hour and 40 minutes each way to get to school. She never missed a day, because for her school was a refuge and a place of hope where she could learn in safety" (Sadker and Zittleman, 2007).

Behavior in the classroom can affect everyone. Harvey Kraut reports that the teacher, "is charged with the burden of creating an environment that instills security, sharing and a sense of togetherness" (2000, p. 104). The teacher is not there to baby sit or yell, but must reinforce rules and policies to efficiently run a class. As previously mentioned, the instructor must be prepared and organized. "Behavior is determined by the way the teacher goes about his/her teaching and organization of the learning activities" (Ninan 2006). Ninan states that to successfully manage a classroom, the students must be "actively engaged in productive activities" (2006).

"Psychologists have shown that children have a strong tendency to copy the behavior of their elders, especially people in positions of authority who they like and respect" (Ninan 2006).

It is not fair for the good students to be exposed to disruptions from fellow classmates. Studies show that a teacher who must deal with an unruly student also distracts the class. According to Ninan, the greater the punishment, the more the student displayed disruptive behavior (2006). Again, quiet reprimands are key in keeping the classroom calm.


Effective schools require many things. A good teaching staff is essential. Educators must be role models for their students. The teachers must genuinely care about their students and lead with their head and heart. All students need and deserve a positive and safe learning environment. Instructors must manage their class and keep everything calm. With goals clearly stated and involvement from all, effective schools can be achieved.


1. An effective teacher must demonstrate which characteristic?

a) being a strong leader

b) being mean so the students will listen

c) being nice so the students like him/her

d) none of the above

2. Which concept below correlates with the idea of high expectations?

a) high expectations are a positive way for students to achieve goals set by their teacher

b) high expectations are very stressful for students and can possibly upset them

c) high expectations should be used only in gifted classes

d) high expectations should never be used

3. James gets very angry when someone uses something that he wants. He becomes enraged and causes a disturbance in the classroom. What is the right way for the teacher to handle this situation?

a) immediately put him in time out

b) take him outside and yell at him in the hallway away from the students

c) tell him in a stern voice to calm down or he will be punished

d) without causing a scene, go up to him and quietly ask him not to yell and give him something else to do

4. Michelle, an A student, just received a C+ on her paper that she worked hard on. She read the teachers comments and understands why she received this grade and what she can to next time to improve. What method did the teacher use?

a) high expectations

b) negative feedback

c) positive feedback

d) positive reinforcement


Baker, E., Herman, J., & Bain, J. What makes a good school? A guide for parents seeking excellence in education. Cresst, 1-11. Retrieved February 9, 2009.

feedback. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved February 8, 2009, from website:

Kearns, D. T., & Harvey, J. (2000). A legacy of learning. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Kohn, A. (1999). The schools our children deserve (pp. 26–28). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Kraut, H. (2000). Teaching and the art of successful classroom management: A how-to guidebook for secondary schools (3rd ed.). Staten Island: Aysa Publishing, Inc.

Ninan, M. (2006). School climate and its impact on school effectiveness: a case study, 1-14. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from

Patten, C. B. (2003). What makes a good teacher. Retrieved February 8, 2009 from Cuil.

Sadker, D. M., & Zittleman, K. R. (2007). What makes a school effective? Retrieved February 8, 2009, from Google.

teacher. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from

Quiz Answers:

1. a

2. a

3. d

4. c

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