Building Blocks of High-Performing Schools

MASB Introduces Nine Characteristics for Schools (PDF File)

One of the most important responsibilities board members and superintendents have is to ensure that all the students in their districts have every opportunity to succeed. Research shows that there is no silver bullet, no single thing a school can do to ensure high student performance. Instead, the research demonstrates high-performing schools have a number of common characteristics that need to be present in order to have effective schools.

As part of the strategic plan developed by MASB, the board of directors included a strategy that would inform all board members of the researched-based characteristics that contribute to high-performing schools.

Recognizing the importance of the superintendent and board's role in establishing goals for the district and in allocating funds to support these goals, the nine research-based characteristics are listed below so your team can use these to make decisions about goals, policies and budgets for your districts.

MASB is pleased to introduce the nine proven characteristics of effective schools. For many of you, this overview is a reminder of what you already have implemented in your districts. It is our hope, however, that you regularly reference these characteristics during your discussions at the board table. Having an understanding and common language of school improvement concepts is the first step in achieving systemic educational reform.

  1. Clear and Shared Focus
    From the board of education down to the students, everyone is focused and committed to a shared vision and agreed upon goals based on common beliefs and values. At the root of these values is the belief that all students can learn. 
  2. High Standards and Expectations for all Students
    Teachers and staff believe that all students can learn and meet high standards. Although it's recognized that some students have certain barriers to overcome, the barriers are not seen as insurmountable. Students are offered an ambitious and rigorous course of study.
  3. Effective School Leadership
    Effective instructional and administrative leadership promotes excellence, quality and professional growth and steadfastly supports people, programs, services and activities that lead to the accomplishment of district goals.
  4. High Levels of Collaboration and Communication
    High performing schools encompass a community of learners. There is strong teamwork among teachers across all grades and with other staff. All members of the learning community, including students, parents and members of the community work together to create a supportive learning environment and to actively solve problems and create solutions.
  5. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Aligned With Standards
    High performing schools have aligned curriculum with the state standards which staff implements using research-based teaching and learning strategies. Staff understand the role of classroom and state assessments, what the assessments measure and how student work is evaluated.
  6. Frequent Monitoring of Teaching and Learning
    Teaching is adjusted based on frequent monitoring of student progress and needs. Assessment results are used to improve student performance and improve instructional programs.
  7. Focused Professional Development
    Professional development is based on needs assessment and sustained over time. Deliberate decisions are made to support professional development that is aligned with the school district vision and goals.
  8. Supportive Learning Environment
    The school has a safe, civil, healthy and intellectually stimulating and personalized learning environment. Students feel respected and connected with the staff and are engaged in learning.
  9. High Level of Parent and Community Involvement
    Parents and community members understand and support the basic mission of the school and have an important role in achieving that mission.