How Will Our Leaders Save American Education?

How Will Our Leaders Save American Education?
Nov 16, 2018

We’re facing a growing epidemic in our schools. The recently published 2017 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey confirms that students are more afraid to go to school now than a decade ago.* 19% of students report being bullied on school property and 15% report being cyberbullied, and these stats are rising. Students seriously considering suicide and students who have made a suicide plan have increased since 2009. This year alone, we have seen at least 65 shootings on school campuses. Safety issues in American schools have reached epidemic proportions and American education is suffering.

We know that teachers and students cannot succeed if they do not feel safe and supported in school. Research shows that school leaders influence school achievement primarily through fostering a strong school climate of safety in a supportive environment with high, consistent, and clear expectations for students. We count on school leaders - teachers, counselors, principals, superintendents, supervisors and school boards – to be proactive in keeping our students safe and transforming school climate to be as safe as possible.

Solution: It’s not just about stopping bullying or other negative behaviors, but creating a culture that forbids it, and supporting the school leaders initiating this trend.

* Study is representative of 9th - 12th grade students in public and private schools in U.S. There are 15.1 million 9th - 12th grade students in public schools in U.S. this year

Effective school leaders challenge the status quo and don’t give up.

A study conducted by Harvard Business Review identified five types of education leaders from the 411 school leaders interviewed and analyzed.

  • The Surgeon: focused on test scores; cuts and redirects
  • The Soldier: focused on the bottom line; trims and tightens
  • The Accountant: focused on the top line; invests and grows
  • The Philosopher: focused on values; debates and discusses
  • The Architect: focused on long-term impact; redesigns and transforms

Only the Architects were found to have a long-term impact on their school community.

The Architects are dedicated leaders who know that shifting school climate and culture is the key to lasting change. They think long-term. They are proactive and they are steadfast. They implement sustainable, holistic programs and processes that continuously engage, impact and improve the school community long after they leave.

Architects create safer schools by transforming school climate.

A new study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research took district-wide data from hundreds of Chicago Public Schools, student and teacher surveys, and student test results over a 7 year period. They found that school leaders influence school achievement primarily through changes in the school’s climate of safety and support. The strongest school climates shared these qualities:

  • School staff hold each other accountable for the success of all students in the school, not just in their own classroom
  • Staff members at multiple levels continually examine student data of various types - behavior, attendance, grades, student work, test scores, and other assessments
  • High expectations for students’ behaviors are equally as important as academic expectations
  • Expectations are consistent - teachers and administrators are trained in a consistent framework to approach behavior management and resolution and are committed to using it
  • Systems of student support are universal and opt-out instead of opt-in

After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Leaders who commit to changing their school climate will see lasting results, and due to our current epidemic of unsafe schools, their trend-setting decisions will save lives in the future. The Harvard Business Review study found that it took at least five years to “engage a school’s community, change its culture and improve its teaching. The most successful leaders stayed for the whole of this journey, and often longer.” The results were extremely positive and enlightening.

Every school can achieve similar results if it’s committed to creating a strong school climate. It is never too late to start implementing policies with these goals.

We’re celebrating and honoring the leaders making the change.

We want to hear about leaders who are determined to transform their schools from the inside out. These leaders aren’t only focused on physical security measures, but on safety mechanisms that support the social and emotional health and growth of their students and teachers. We want to hear your stories and learn from your progress. We want to support these efforts because we know it’s not a simple task, but critical in pushing this trend forward. We see it working in one of our partner schools here in New York City, I.S. 228 - David A. Boody. Once a failing school, now it is named a top ten middle schools in Brooklyn. Principal Dominick D’Angelo is transforming the school by offering inclusive programs, introducing innovative technologies and implementing anti-bullying initiatives.

Every school leader has an opportunity to architect an improved culture.

After every bullying incident, every school shooting and tragedy, communities are left grappling with the aftermath. The social and emotional impact on the school community is severe and a sense of safety and wellbeing must be rebuilt and restored. Most schools are not equipped to respond effectively, and most often are not prepared to prevent such tragedies from happening. It is up to school leaders to be Architects of a new and improved school culture. Teachers are looking to their administrators to strategically focus on the climate in their schools, engage their community in improved communication, and implement safety measures to prevent tragedy from striking their campus. Our students and teachers need better and safer outcomes.

After 4 years Bridgit continues on its mission to figure this out, from the inside out - shifting the school culture is the key to increasing safety. We’re looking to connect with education leaders guiding their schools forward with this aim. Those who recognize their actions are pushing forward this trend to save lives and American education at the same time.