What Does It Take to Be a Model School?

Photo: Educators engage in conversation at the 2018 Model Schools Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Every June, my colleagues at the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) and I proudly celebrate the Annual Model Schools Conference (MSC). We invite schools and districts that are seeing rapid improvement to showcase their journeys, share their best practices, and inspire our attendees.

I often get asked, “What does it take to be a Model School?” or “What do you look for when naming a school a Model?” I want to clear up a misconception; Model Schools aren’t necessarily the highest ranked in the state. Rather, Model Schools are those that are experiencing rapid growth in student achievement; schools that are deliberately working to shift the culture to one of high expectations for ALL students; or schools that are working through challenges such as high poverty rates, large populations of English learners, or an unsettling number of homeless students and are beating the odds. They are also the “good” schools making strides toward greatness. But most importantly, they are the schools that are providing a safe and trusting environment where a love for learning is fostered every day.

What Is a Model School?

To further define “Model School,” we have developed a set of criteria that lays out specifically what we look for.

1. Credible Supporting Data

Model Schools are those that are rapidly and dramatically making improvements that are validated with reliable, credible data or substantive and relevant qualitative indicators.

2. Passion

Our attendees consistently tell us that the emotional connection generated at MSC is like no other conference. Model School leaders and teachers have taken their ambition and have turned it into actions that result in student success.

3. A Student Focus

Model Schools are focused on what matters most: the students! School leaders support the adults in moving outside their comfort zones and adapting to what is best for the kids. There is a focus on healthy social-emotional development through strong, positive relationships.

4. Being Future Forward

Model Schools are always looking ahead at what's around the corner. They understand that education must transform to meet the changing needs and demands of a technology-driven, rapidly transforming world so students are prepared for success outside of school

5. A Supportive Culture

Model Schools prioritize a supportive, systemwide culture of high expectations and strong relationships. They use specific and adaptable strategies to create a positive learning environment that is felt throughout the building by leaders, teachers, students, parents, and the community.

6. Communication, PR, and Branding

Model Schools celebrate success beyond the four walls of the school. They are committed to strategic two-way communication with stakeholders and the greater community through modern channels including social media.

7. All Means ALL

Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships for ALL students is the central theme that underpins the work of ICLE. Model Schools apply these concepts with clear understanding, creating equitable learning opportunities for all students.

8. Diversity

Collectively, Model Schools must be diverse both demographically and geographically and represent urban, suburban, and rural schools. Model Schools are making advances in equity and excellence and are working toward closing the opportunity gap in all demographic groups.

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How to Become a Model School

Does your school have a must-tell turnaround story? Are you making strides in student achievement and meeting several of these criteria? Do you have an innovative solution to a widespread challenge? We want to hear from you. Apply to present as a Model School or an Innovative District at next year's conference.

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