When Getting Different Kids Isn’t an Option

Summerconf_logo_100x98In his ASCD Summer Conference session, “Becoming a Great High School: 6 Strategies and 1 Attitude That Make a Difference,” Tim Westerberg discussed how there are really two options for school success: get started modeling best practices or get different kids! One of those isn’t an option, so how can educators start modeling best practices? Westerberg believes it all begins with modeling a “we-expect-success” attitude.

During his 20-year career as a high school principal, Tim Westerberg would ask teachers four questions each day:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How are your kids doing?
  • How do you know?
  • What are you doing about the kids who are struggling?

His simple, yet difficult, questions were a challenge for his staff. But his dedicated face time with his teachers resulted in a high-functioning professional atmosphere and effectively modeled the type of success and collaboration he wanted to see across the school.

Westerberg’s interactive session achieved a “can-do” attitude much like the one he described in his stories from his high school. And once the right attitude was established, Westerberg introduced his six essential strategies for continued school success:

  • Developing clear instructional goals
  • Developing a common vision of effective instruction
  • Using frequent formative assessment
  • Tracking student progress
  • Providing timely Intervention for struggling students
  • Celebrating student success

In one corner of the session, educators Walter Perkins, January Valdez, and Jay Yolich from Prologue Early College High School in Chicago, Ill., were nodding their heads. After Westerberg introduced his six strategies, they discussed whether or not the strategies should be sequential.They listened to each other and took notes on what each said.

In a great illustration of the professional learning network Westerberg extolled, the educators came to the conclusion that the strategies must be layered. “Teachers can think too linear at times,” said Perkins. Valdez and Yolich noted that each strategy would influence another. Would Westerberg agree? They didn’t know, but they felt sure he would find time to talk to them.

What can you do to promote a better attitude at your school?