When given the task of turning around a school, the first thing that one can see, touch, feel - and definitely smell - is the school culture, whether it may be awesome or abysmal. Just sit with a group of classroom teachers and listen. As a new principal of a turnaround school, I did just that, and found that there was a genuine lack of information on school-wide initiatives, fear of the unknown, lack of intentional support, and consistently sharing the “what” but rarely sharing the “why.”
Urban school leaders must find and invest the time to establish and sustain a strong culture of excellence
Principals leading a turnaround school have a wide range of logistics to coordinate. However, while holding data talks and parent engagement activities, urban school leaders must find and invest the time to address the need to establish and sustain a strong culture of excellence. Doing this work pays off in a variety of ways: engaged employees, conducive work environment, increased focus on instructional excellence, and increased student growth and proficiency. I have found that the following strategies have worked magic across my campus.
As urban school leaders, we have to fearlessly lead with each performer on our team and remind them – relentlessly – when they become resistant to change that the impossible is indeed possible. Our scholars deserve it, and we have to work together to create the culture within to thrive professionally. When you are met with their doubt about strategies to close the achievement gap, ask them: what would they do if they knew it wouldn’t fail? Their answer may be the secret ingredient to move the academic needle of the adult and student learners within your amazing school building!