Tagged “School Climate”

Ethnically Diverse School Transforms School Discipline

Bingham Farms Elementary School, Bingham Farms, Mich.

Located in the affluent Birmingham district northwest of Detroit, Bingham Farms Elementary School celebrates being one of the more ethnically diverse schools in the area. Encouraged by the district to develop a touchstone, this school's staff, students, and parents are now unified around their vision for positive character known as the "Bingham Best." According to Principal Russ Facione, the touchstone allows students to "reflect and refocus" and take charge of their choices. "It has literally transformed discipline in our building," he adds.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Bingham Farms also boasts numerous Promising Practices awards and creative strategies that have enabled students to succeed—both academically and socially. All students, for example, have learned a five-step conflict resolution strategy called Solve-It-Spot. Students are reminded of the steps through posters placed around the school and practice during class meetings. Students report that the strategy is informally implemented by peers, and parents testify to seeing Solve-It-Spot practiced at home.

Caring and Compassion Translates into Narrowing the Achievement Gap

Oakwood Elementary School, Glen Burnie, Md.

Parents and staff consistently refer to Oakwood Elementary School as "the best-kept secret in Glen Burnie." The sense of caring and compassion that has been fostered here, as well as the dedication to meeting the individual needs of students, has translated into a remarkable narrowing of the achievement gap and academic excellence for all. In class, students help one another, soothe each other, and share classroom materials. Teachers help children in such seamless and natural ways that no child is singled out for being "special." Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Oakwood's staff finds strategies that suit every student, and they have devised a consistent set of expectations for student behavior throughout the building. Parents feel well informed and welcome in the school and are involved in character education leadership. When asked about how the school has made such remarkable academic gains, former principal Nancy Knouse responds: "Everybody in this building is working for kids. Nobody ever gives up on any child."

A Common Message and Sense of Belonging

Renfro Elementary School, Collinsville, Ill.

Renfro Elementary School special education teacher Mary Anne Hempsted observes, "This school is the most welcoming place that I have ever worked. People respond to any need." Renfro's teachers and students connect through class meetings and the cross-grade level "families." Each family creates their own silent family greeting that they use whenever they encounter a "family member" in the halls. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Renfro defines character to include thinking, feeling, and doing and takes a very comprehensive, intentional, proactive approach to character education. Carrie White, parent of a second grader and a kindergartner, praises the common language used at the school, which carries into the home, and observes that the words mean the same at school and at home. Entire classrooms of students are recognized for showing good character, not individuals. Third-grade teacher Carolyn Demaree says, "Every adult cares for the students in this school and holds them accountable."

Everyone Has a Role in Educating Character

Fuguitt Elementary School, Largo, Fla.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Fuguitt Elementary School truly embraces the "it takes a village" approach to character education. Staff members are focused and intentional as they work to build the academic program on the foundation of a strong character education base. Student leaders, known as character coaches, lead discussions of the school's character book of the month. Reading and writing programs have been intentionally linked to character education. Teachers have integrated the service learning program into the curriculum and provide structured opportunities for student initiative and reflection. Students are included in the planning and leadership stage, and both pre- and post-reflection opportunities are developed for each activity. The assistant principal, who launched the Bully-Free Club, and the guidance counselors and classroom teachers all have critical roles in the success of the school. At Fuguitt, all employees are considered to be "character educators," and Principal Mike Moss says their character education efforts are "bringing the staff alive."

Focusing on the Moral and Social Development of Students

Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School, Washington, D.C.

Beauvoir is located on the grounds of the National Cathedral located in Washington, D.C. Head of School Paula Carreiro came to Beauvoir 19 years ago and began exploring school culture based on shared core values and individual character. A focus on the whole child and each child's moral and social development now pervades the Beauvoir program. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, the school invests time and resources into both social and academic curricula. Beauvoir also emphasizes responsiveness to the needs and concerns of students, parents, and staff. The school's associate teacher program provides two teachers in every classroom. Since about 85 percent of Beauvoir students are from dual-working-parent families, parent schedules are accommodated in many ways, particularly at drop-off time, in school communications, and for volunteer opportunities. Parents attest that Beauvoir's approach lets them "push back" many of today's negative influences.

School Organizes to Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Wagga Wagga Christian College, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia

Recognized as a MindMatters School in 2011 by whole child partner Principals Australia Institute, Wagga Wagga Christian College is a coeducational K–12 school which fosters a family environment that develops responsibility and trust between peers and multi-aged young people. In 2007, the faculty determined the need to develop a welfare system to be proactive and responsive, not reactive. As a result the school has refined its transition programs, building stronger links with parents and the community beyond the school; expanded its student leadership program, empowering students at all levels of leadership; and implemented resilience programs, highlighting the safe use of social networks, cyberbullying, and sex education and relationships. Feedback is sought at parent association meetings about the mental health and well-being programs that could be implemented for students and parents.

Believing Leads to Achieving

Hotchkiss K–8 School, Hotchkiss, Colo.

A recipient of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform's 2011 Schools to Watch® Award, Hotchkiss K–8 School in Colorado is set on maintaining a positive school culture through focusing on their "Famous 3": passion, purpose, and plan.

Dedicated to providing middle-level students with the utmost ability to achieve success, programs like Child Advocacy Program (CAP) and Help, Understanding, Guidance & Support (HUGS) have been used to instill a sense of responsibility among students, promote proactive engagement, and develop a relationship between the staff and students that encourages high performance across both an academic and nonacademic spectrum.

Hotchkiss K–8 continues to flourish as an exemplary school, and we agree wholeheartedly with their motto: "If you believe, you can achieve."

Developing Leadership Skills to Plan for Success

Sidney Glen Elementary, Port Orchard, Wash.

The school culture at Sidney Glen Elementary School in Port Orchard, Wash., emphasizes a safe and supportive environment that focuses on developing leadership aptitude for each child. Using Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People framework, students are guided to proactively set their own learning goals, set plans to attain those goals, and prioritize the steps to achieve them.

By also recognizing the importance of personalized learning, identifying students' unique talents, and setting high expectations, Sidney Glen is helping prepare kids to be responsible for their learning and achievement inside and outside of the school building.

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