Certain elements are critical to assuring that high poverty schools become high performing schools. Activities alone will not notably improve student performance. Activities intended as minimal or remedial responses start from weak premises, they assume that students “don’t care,” “can’t learn,” or “won’t make the effort,” and they quickly lose strength. In direct contrast, activities gain strength from the critical elements (listed below). This is because the elements themselves derive from sound educational precepts: the valuing of students, their education and teachers. The critical elements assume that properly supported, students can learn and teachers can teach.

Effective administrative leadership–The principal sets the pace of change and promotes standards, exemplifies and encourages a positive atmosphere and enthusiasm for learning, expects creative problem solving from teachers, shares decision making with faculty, encourages academic leadership, supports professional development, evaluates programs, gives innovative programs time to work, and seeks faculty and student opinions.

Positive expectations–The principal is finely tuned to negative attitudes among students and faculty and reverses them.

Strong, integrated curriculum–The principal works with the faculty to develop a long­term campus plan with specific expected outcomes.

Shared decision making–The principal maintains close contact with the site­based management teams to coordinate goals and objectives. Decision­making teams include department chairs or core teachers, counselors and at­risk coordinators.

Campus­wide responsibility for teaching and success–Within the context established by other critical elements, successful schools initiate emphasis on reading, writing and mathematics across the curriculum.

–Adapted from Project Pathways: Programs That Work (San Antonio, Texas: IDRA, 1993).