IDRA’s School TurnAround and Reenergizing for Success (STAARS) Leaders project is a unique model for school improvement that focuses on cohesive, meaningful change for struggling schools through mentoring and supporting campus leadership. The project is funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education and participating schools are those eligible to receive a School Improvement Grant (SIG).
The goal of the STAARS Leaders project is to enhance student academic success by empowering school leaders to build a culture dedicated to equity and excellence for all students. IDRA’s STAARS model is especially unique because of its focus on helping educational communities who teach English learners (ELs). The project is currently centered on San Antonio ISD’s SIG-eligible schools.
The STAARS Leaders project facilitates building strong, trusting relationships between educational stakeholders. Achieving this goal involves technical support in the form of coaching and mentoring tailored to address each school’s unique needs. This process is guided by a set of core competencies that provide a frame for principals to reflect on their campus and communities’ challenges and preexisting strengths to mitigate issues and achieve student success. Taking an asset-based approach to solving problems is key, in addition to creating a unified community where all educational stakeholders, from teachers to parents, can take an active role in furthering student achievement.
Guiding Set of Competencies* for STAARS Leaders
- Competency 1: Driving for Results: Bolstering student success can be directly achieved through task-oriented actions. This involves being aware of all the stakeholders in the educational environment and bringing them together to identify challenges, pool resources and knowledge, and problem-solve. This competency involves knowing each stakeholder’s strengths and placing them in roles where they can fully draw upon their talents and help students achieve and succeed.
- Competency 2: Influencing for Results: Getting positive results requires being aware of how to increase efficiency and motivation not only of staff and students, but the leaders themselves must be duly motivated and conscious of the school culture they are working to change and improve. Influential leaders create opportunities for reflection on important issues such as academic learning and social justice. Leaders must properly support their teachers to constantly work toward student success.
- Competency 3: Problem-Solving: This key competency requires using data and analysis to identify the root causes of school barriers to student success. Principals make sure that each issue gets to the root cause, involves all stakeholders, and works toward the school’s overall learning goals.
- Competency 4: Showing Confidence to Lead: An effective leader must also be confident, which involves being visibly focused and committed to improving the school climate. Reflection and self-awareness are key to a leader’s confidence.
- Competency 5: Connecting with Student and Family Diversity: Any principal or school leader who wishes to improve student success must first be able to connect with the students and their families to assess what the school can do to facilitate learning and growth. The principal must take an asset-based approach, identifying strengths and resolving issues that act as a barrier to learning in their diverse communities. The school climate must be both culturally responsive and linguistically supportive.
- Competency 6: Organizing Stakeholders for Collaborative Action: This competency requires developing and articulating a shared vision of the academic community across campuses and their embedded communities. Action plans must be built on collaboration and effective communication between educators and community members.
- Competency 7: Measuring, Reporting and Sustaining Success: Academic successes come from collective leadership and efficacy. Teachers and school leaders must constantly reflect on the steps they are taking to improve student outcomes and this data must be measured and reported in the interest of continued problem-solving and, ultimately, sustainable success.
This project leads to change that begins with a school’s leadership – an effective, informed, committed principal can mentor and support his or her teachers who, in turn, nurture and enrich their students. In the STAARS Leaders project, the principal builds a one-on-one, trusting relationship with project personnel that is inherently strengthened by the fact that IDRA is not there to evaluate or judge school staff. Changing the school culture itself helps teachers and school leaders to build capacity and identify the root causes of the unique issues their students face. Support from the STAARS Leaders project allows educators to evaluate student success beyond the mold of standardized testing in the interest of building the skills and knowledge necessary for students to succeed at any academic endeavor.
* Adapted from The Chicago Public Education Fund’s “School Turnaround Leaders: Competencies for Success,” (Public Impact for the Chicago Public Education Fund, 2008). http://www.publicimpact.com/publications/Turnaround_Leader_Competencies.pdf
Articles about IDRA’s STAARS Leaders Project
Five Best Practices for Effective Principals and School Leadership Teams, October 07, 2019
School Leaders Improve English Learner Literacy with Focus on Inferencing, September 28, 2018
School Leaders Create Culture of Equity and Success, by Nilka Avilés, Ed.D., IDRA Newsletter, March 2018
The Power of Partnerships in the Pursuit of Leadership Development to Transform Schools, by Nilka Avilés, Ed.D., Joanelda De León, Ed.D., and Jesse Jay McNeil, Ed.D., IDRA Newsletter, November-December 2017
What People are Saying about IDRA’s STAARS Leaders Project, IDRA Newsletter, November-December 2017
Fostering Excellence through Social Justice Principles in Schools Serving English Learners, by Nilka Avilés, Ed.D., IDRA Newsletter, November-December 2016
Project-Based Learning – Changing Learning Paradigms One Lesson at a Time, by Nilka Avilés, Ed.D., and Nadiah Al-Gasem, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, September 2016
Podcasts about IDRA’s STAARS Leaders Project
Growth Mindsets to Increase Achievement – Podcast Episode 180
Capacity Building Among School Leadership – Podcast Episode 177
A Principal on Leadership for a Turnaround School – Part 2 – Podcast Episode 169
A Principal on Leadership for a Turnaround School – Part 1 – Podcast Episode 168