MAKING THE GRADE: It takes it all to create successful schools

By Daily News • Last Updated 10:47 am on Thursday, July 24, 2014

Making the Grade | Janet Ralph

I have just ordered the next book I will read. The title is “I Got Schooled,” and the author is M. Night Shyamalan, a noted filmmaker. I just finished reading a review of his book.

What intrigues me about the book is the conclusion the author has reached about what it takes to make successful schools. He did not start out to research this topic. He was dining with friends, one of whom teaches at a hospital. His friend mentioned that he advises his medical residents to tell patients that if they do five basic things, their chances of becoming seriously ill are greatly reduced. The five things are eat a balanced diet, exercise,  sleep eight hours a day, don’t smoke and focus on mental health.

But there is one more thing that is essential. Patients must do all five things in combination. If they try to pick and choose, their system will be out of balance.

Shyamalan immediately saw the connection to education. First we need to determine what the essentials are and then we need to recognize their mutual interdependence and practice all of them at the same time.

This conclusion seems so logical, so sensible that one has to ask why we have missed it. Instead, politicians and others come up with an idea and educators are supposed to run with it. They are constantly being asked to change direction. And we ignore the fact that they need to do several things at the same time. There is no single solution. If it doesn’t work right away, they are supposed to try something else. And we wonder why we are not getting the results we want and why educators are frustrated.

As an example, I would cite the Common Core.

I am sure I will learn more from the book, but here are the five characteristics that Shyamalan came up with for successful schools:

1. Start with good teachers.

2. Allow principals to be educators.

3. Be serious about data-driven instruction.

4. Small schools make a difference.

5. More time for learning.

6. Then remember that it takes all five.


A great educator departs

Every year we lose excellent teachers, administrators and other staff. We acknowledge them internally, but too often we do not do a good job of recognizing them to the general public.

Last week one of the outstanding leaders at Greenville Schools closed out a great career. Diane Brissette worked her last day on Friday. She has served as assistant principal and principal at the Middle School and most recently as assistant superintendent. She has been a compassionate but determined leader in every position. She thrived on challenges. Her delightful sense of humor helped everyone stay focused.

Thank you, Diane. Enjoy your well earned retirement.

Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.

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