Fourteen years ago The George Lucas Educational Foundation was created to celebrate and encourage innovation in schools. Since then we have discovered many creative educators, business leaders, parents, and others who were making positive changes not only from the top down but also from the bottom up. Since that time we have been telling their stories through our Web site, our documentary films, and Edutopia magazine. video Along the way, we listened and learned. Nothing is simple when strengthening and invigorating such a vast and complex institution as our educational system, but common ideas for improvement emerged. We’ve distilled those into this ten-point credo. In the coming year, we will publish a series of essays that further explores each aspect of this agenda, with the hope that those on the frontlines of education can make them a part of their schools.


1. Engage: Project-Based Learning
Students go beyond the textbook to study complex topics based on real-world issues, such as the water quality in their communities or the history of their town, analyzing information from multiple sources, including the Internet and interviews with experts. Project-based classwork is more demanding than traditional book-based instruction, where students may just memorize facts from a single source. Instead, students utilize original documents and data, mastering principles covered in traditional courses but learning them in more meaningful ways. Projects can last weeks; multiple projects can cover entire courses. Student work is presented to audiences beyond the teacher, including parents and community groups. Reality Check: At the Clear View Charter School, in Chula Vista, California, fourth- and fifth-grade students collected insect specimens, studied them under an electron microscope via a fiber-optic link to a nearby university, used Internet resources for their reports, and discussed their findings with university entomologists. 2. Connect: Integrated Studies
Studies should enable students to reach across traditional disciplines and explore their relationships, like James Burke described in his book Connections. History, literature, and art can be interwoven and studied together. Integrated studies enable subjects to be investigated using many forms of knowledge and expression, as literacy skills are expanded beyond the traditional focus on words and numbers to include graphics, color, music, and motion. Reality Check: Through a national project called Nature Mapping, fourth-grade students in rural Washington learn reading, writing, mathematics, science, and technology use while searching for rare lizards. 3. Share: Cooperative Learning
Working together on project teams and guided by trained teachers, students learn the skills of collaborating, managing emotions, and resolving conflicts in groups. Each member of the team is responsible for learning the subject matter as well as helping teammates to learn. Cooperative learning develops social and emotional skills, providing a valuable foundation for their lives as workers, family members, and citizens. Reality Check: In Eeva Reeder’s tenth-grade geometry class at Mountlake Terrace High School, near Seattle, student teams design «schools of the future» while mentoring with local architects. They manage deadlines and resolve differences to produce models, budgets, and reports far beyond what an individual student could accomplish. 4. Expand: Comprehensive Assessment
Assessment should be expanded beyond simple test scores to instead provide a detailed, continuous profile of student strengths and weaknesses. Teachers, parents, and individual students can closely monitor academic progress and use the assessment to focus on areas that need improvement. Tests should be an opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes, retake the test, and improve their scores. Reality Check: At the Key Learning Community, in Indianapolis, teachers employ written rubrics to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses using categories based on Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences, including spatial, musical, and interpersonal skills.


5. Coach: Intellectual and Emotional Guide
The most important role for teachers is to coach and guide students through the learning process, giving special attention to nurturing a student’s interests and self-confidence. As technology provides more curricula, teachers can spend less time lecturing entire classes and more time mentoring students as individuals and tutoring them in areas in which they need help or seek additional challenges. Reality Check: Brooklyn fifth-grade teacher Sarah Button uses exercises and simulations from the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program with her students, helping them learn empathy, cooperation, positive expression of feelings, and appreciation of diversity. 6. Learn: Teaching as Apprenticeship
Preparation for a teaching career should follow the model of apprenticeships, in which novices learn from experienced masters. Student teachers should spend less time in lecture halls learning educational theory and more time in classrooms, working directly with students and master teachers. Teaching skills should be continually sharpened, with time to take courses, attend conferences, and share lessons and tips with other teachers, online and in person. Reality Check: Online communities such as Middle Web, the Teacher Leaders Network, and the Teachers Network bring novice and expert educators together in a Web-based professional community. The online mentorship gives novice teachers access to accomplished practitioners eager to strengthen the profession at its roots.


7. Adopt: Technology
The intelligent use of technology can transform and improve almost every aspect of school, modernizing the nature of curriculum, student assignments, parental connections, and administration. Online curricula now include lesson plans, simulations, and demonstrations for classroom use and review. With online connections, students can share their work and communicate more productively and creatively. Teachers can maintain records and assessments using software tools and stay in close touch with students and families via email and voicemail. Schools can reduce administrative costs by using technology tools, as other fields have done, and provide more funds for the classroom. Reality Check: Students in Geoff Ruth’s high school chemistry class at Leadership High School, in San Francisco, have abandoned their textbooks. Instead, they plan, research, and implement their experiments using material gathered online from reliable chemistry resources. 8. Reorganize: Resources
Resources of time, money, and facilities must be restructured. The school day should allow for more in-depth project work beyond the 45-minute period, including block scheduling of classes two hours or longer. Schools should not close for a three-month summer vacation, but should remain open for student activities, teacher development, and community use. Through the practice of looping, elementary school teachers stay with a class for two or more years, deepening their relationships with students. More money in school districts should be directed to the classroom rather than the bureaucracy. New school construction and renovation should emphasize school design that supports students and teachers collaborating in teams, with pervasive access to technology. Schools can be redesigned to also serve as community centers that provide health and social services for families, as well as counseling and parenting classes. Reality Check: The school year at the Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center, in Fort Worth, Texas, consists of four blocks of about nine weeks each. Intersession workshops allow its K-5 students time for hands-on arts, science, and computer projects or sports in addition to language arts and math enrichment.


9. Involve: Parents
When schoolwork involves parents, students learn more. Parents and other caregivers are a child’s first teachers and can instill values that encourage school learning. Schools should build strong alliances with parents and welcome their active participation in the classroom. Educators should inform parents of the school’s educational goals, the importance of high expectations for each child, and ways of assisting with homework and classroom lessons. Reality Check: In the Sacramento Unified School District, teachers make home visits to students’ families. Teachers gain a better understanding of their students’ home environment, and parents see that teachers are committed to forging closer home-school bonds. If English is not spoken in the home, translators accompany the teachers. 10. Include: Community Partners
Partnerships with a wide range of community organizations, including business, higher education, museums, and government agencies, provide critically needed materials, technology, and experiences for students and teachers. These groups expose students and teachers to the world of work through school-to-career programs and internships. Schools should enlist professionals to act as instructors and mentors for students. Reality Check: At the Minnesota Business Academy, in St. Paul, businesses ranging from a newspaper to a stock brokerage to an engineering firm provide internships for three to four hours per day, twice each week. BestPrep, a philanthropic state business group, spearheaded an effort that renovated an old science building for school use. If you are an owner of a primary school, then you will have to constantly look after the fact that the school should always upgrade the quality of education. If the quality of education has to be upgraded, then the teachers imparting education should also be trained and updated with the latest technologies. If you are an owner or a trustee or the principal of a primary school, then you should go through the following discussion to improve the way education is imparted through your school. Let us have a look at some important tips for improving the quality of education in primary schools.

10 Tips for improving the quality of education in primary schools

Look after hygiene-This might sound trivial, however, this is the most important aspect to improve in any primary school. The students who go to the primary schools are less than 13, therefore, they are likely to use toilets more than thrice a day. They are so little and naïve that they can’t think about their own hygiene at this point of time. Therefore, it is completely the duty of the school to maintain the hygiene of the toilets and see that it is cleaned at least thrice a day for the use of the children. Unclean toilets can spread germs easily and the students will fall sick and get deprived of education. Tips for improving the quality of education in primary schools | TIST,Thrissur Keeping street vendors away from the school premises-This also indirectly helps to improve the education level of a primary school. A lot of parents don’t prefer to take their children to a school which is infested by street vendors selling chat masala, bhelpuri and such other unhealthy food for children. The children force their parents to buy that food or buy themselves out of their pocket money and thus get diseases and don’t attend important classes. Constant electric supply-Children going to primary school should be given the utmost care by the school authorities. Therefore, it should be seen that there is no deprivation of electricity supply in the school and lights, fans, air-conditions are always in a working condition. Use of technology-These days almost all schools use smart boards, desktop computers, video conferencing for imparting education. I remember when I was studying my 12th standard; I saw one higher secondary school has the facility of a seminar hall. Today, a primary school should also think about such facilities, for inviting teachers from other primary schools to deliver lectures. Tips for improving the quality of education in primary schools | TIST,Thrissur Training teachers–Only improving the technologies to impart education is not enough. The educators who would be using such technologies should also be trained. If possible, all primary schools should organize an annual orientation program for the teachers. This would encourage the teachers to learn about new technologies to teach the students. Cultural activities–“All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”A primary school will be successful in imparting education if and only if the process of delivering classes is interjected with annual social functions, weekly music and dance classes, and art seminars. The children will be able to apply all their potential properly in the school and enjoy the educational process. Organize motivational talks-It is not always necessary that a teacher always has to give motivation to the students. Any person from some other genre of the profession who is a good speaker and can properly mix up with students can be given a chance to provide some motivation to the students in the seminar halls of the primary schools. They can share their struggles, their likes, their dislikes, their mistakes when they studied in a primary school. Tips for improving the quality of education in primary schools | TIST,Thrissur Constant monitoring the faculties-The teachers and non-teaching staff of any school are not all alike. They come from different backgrounds and cultures. Therefore, some of them might be friendly, while others may be too strict with the children. A school needs to eliminate the flaws of the personal traits of the individual faculties and use each one’s best traits to improve the education facilities of the school. This is possible only when the faculties go through regular vigilance and counseling. Counseling of students-Not all students are the same and neither can they can all take the pressure of the school similarly. A primary school should sympathize with the fact that these children are staying a lot of time away from their parents in their institution. Therefore, they should organize regular psychological counseling sessions for them to unload their mental pressure. ParentTeacher meetings-A school will never be able to improve if it doesn’t listen to the parents and teachers and be informed about the latest challenges and problems. Therefore, the highest authority of the school should organize regular parent-teacher meetings to listen and understand the challenges and threats of each side. The decision for the changes in the future administration of the primary school to impart education should be based on the resolutions taken in those parent-teacher meetings. Tips for improving the quality of education in primary schools | TIST,Thrissur Well, all these are the main tips for improving quality education in primary school. If you are looking for such a good school in Thrissur, then it is better to search for an International School in Thrissur, Kerala. TIST, Thrissur is one such famous international school in Kerala that has good faculties, regular parent-teacher interactions, school bus, facilities, regular cultural activities, school’s own radio station, play courts, laboratories, swimming pools and lots more. They give the best IGCSE board education in Thrissur. So why wait, contact The International School of Thrissur to get your child enrolled from the primary session. Every school administrator should continuously look for new ways to improve their school. Being fresh and innovative should be balanced with continuity and steadiness so that you get a nice mix of the old with the new. The following 10 strategies for improving schools provide a starting place for administrators seeking to offer fresh, engaging activities to all members of the school community.

Write a Weekly Newspaper Column

How: It will highlight the school’s successes, focus on individual teachers’ efforts, and give student recognition. It will also deal with challenges that the school is facing and needs that you have. Why: Writing the newspaper column will allow the public the opportunity to see what is going on within the school on a weekly basis. It will allow them the opportunity to see both the successes and obstacles that the school is facing.

Have a Monthly Open House/Game Night

How: Every third Thursday night of each month from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., hold an open house/game night. Each teacher will design games or activities geared toward the particular subject area they are teaching at the time. Parents and students will be invited to come in and participate in the activities together. Why: This will allow parents the opportunity to come into their children’s classroom, visit with their teachers, and participate in activities about subject areas that they are currently learning. It will allow them to be more actively involved in their children’s education and foster greater communication with their teachers.

Thursday Lunch With Parents

How: Each Thursday, a group of 10 parents will be invited to eat lunch with the principal. They will have lunch in a conference room and talk about issues that are current at the school. Why: This allows parents the opportunity to become comfortable with administrators and teachers and to express both concerns and positive thoughts about the school. It also allows the school to be more personalized and gives parents the opportunity to provide input.

Implement a Greeter Program

How: Every nine weeks, 10 eighth-graders will be selected to participate in the greeter program. There will be two students greeting per class period. Those students will greet all visitors at the door, walk them to the office, and assist them as needed. Why: This program will make visitors feel more welcome. It will also allow the school to present a more friendly and personalized environment. Good first impressions are important. With friendly greeters at the door, most visitors will come away with a good first impression.

Have Monthly Potluck Lunch

How: Each month, teachers will get together and bring food for a potluck lunch. There will be door prizes at each of these lunches. Teachers are free to socialize with other teachers and staff while enjoying good food. Why: This will allow the staff to sit down together once a month and relax while they eat. It will provide an opportunity for relationships and friendships to develop, and a time for the staff to pull together and have some fun.

Recognize a Teacher of the Month

How: The teacher of the month will be voted on by the faculty. Each teacher who wins the award will receive recognition in the paper, their own personal parking space for the month, a $50 gift card to the mall, or a $25 gift card for a nice restaurant. Why: This will allow individual teachers to be recognized for their hard work and dedication to education. It will mean more to that individual since they were selected by their peers.

Conduct a Yearly Business Fair

How: Invite several businesses in your community to participate in an annual business fair. The entire school will spend a few hours learning important things about those businesses such as what they do, how many people work there, and what skills are needed to work there. Why: This allows the business community the opportunity to come into the school and show kids what all they do and be a part of the students’ education. It provides the students with opportunities to see if they are interested in working at a particular business.

Presentation by Business Professionals for Eighth-Graders

How: Guests from the community will be invited to discuss the how’s and what’s of their particular career. People will be chosen so that their particular career relates to a specific subject area. For example, a geologist might speak in the science class or a news anchor might speak in a language arts class. Why: This allows businesspeople from the community the opportunity to share what their career is all about with the students. It allows students to see a variety of possible career choices, ask questions, and find out interesting things about various careers.

Begin a Volunteer Reading Program

How: Ask people in the community who would like to get involved with the school, but do not have children who are in school, to volunteer as part of a reading program for students with lower reading levels. The volunteers may come in as often as they wish and read books one-on-one with the students. Why: This allows people the opportunity to volunteer and get involved in the school even if they are not parents of school children within the district. It also provides students the opportunity to improve their reading abilities and get to know people within the community.

Start a Sixth-Grade Living History Program

How: The sixth-grade social studies class will be assigned an individual from the community who volunteers to be interviewed. Students will interview that person about their lives and events that have happened during their lives. The student will then write a paper about that person and give a presentation to the class. Why: This allows students the opportunity to get to know people within the community. It also allows members of the community to assist the school system and to get involved with the school. It involves people from the community who may not have been involved in the school system before. School Improvement Strategies By: Michael D. Toth My LSI Applied Research Center team and I developed 11 school improvement “secrets” that embody the radically different approach we support in our partnerships with schools and which achieve results that sustain. I’ve visited many schools across the country that can’t seem to permanently escape turnaround status in their state accountability system. For years, these schools try program after program for school improvement. This constant looking to programs often creates “program fatigue” among staff and erodes teacher morale. Each year there is hope that new programs will help the school permanently exit turnaround status. But usually, the school only suffers disappointment in the results, leaving hardworking staff feeling overwhelmed with students who are perpetually behind on academics and often behaviorally challenging. The cycle of program after program creates a “prisoner of hope” mindset. Letdown is often followed with increasing remediation and interventions, which further robs students of their own morale for learning and is particularly damaging to Black and Brown students. Many of these underperforming schools have hardworking principals and staff, supportive district teams, and ambitious school improvement plans. Their students are bright, even though disengagement might be masking their potential. So, what is holding these schools back from becoming great schools?

What are the typical school improvement approaches – and do they work?

Sustainable, systems-based school improvement isn’t something that happens overnight. There is no silver bullet for deeply entrenched systemic issues in core instruction. But our research shows that when schools focus on rigorous grade-level instruction that develops student agency, they achieve faster and sustainable proficiency results. It also builds the instructional capacity of faculty and leaders – and most importantly – students’ capacity to be better learners. What many traditional school turnaround reform approaches attempt to do, on the other hand, is provide quick fixes to a school’s issues through highly scripted and prescriptive programs coupled with high doses of remediation and interventions for students. Sometimes these tactics will yield temporary learning gains, but these gains plateau and don’t translate to increased and sustained student grade-level proficiency. What I discovered in my research is that schools with broken systems require a radically different approach from the norm if they are going to achieve radically different results. That is why LSI’s Applied Research Center designed our school improvement partnerships to rebuild the instructional systems in schools with an unrelenting focus on high-quality, rigorous, and engaging Tier 1 core instruction. The result is rigorous academic learning that challenges and engages students and steadily builds proficiency. These rebuilt systems create a learning environment where not only is every student successful, but also the school leaders and teachers feel empowered rather than tied to a script or a program-based school improvement plan.

Examples of school improvement successes

LSI’s partner schools have achieved incredible results:

    • The lowest-performing traditional public school in the entire state of Florida, Lakewood Elementary School, became an “A” school
    • McLaughlin Middle School outperformed its district learning rates during the COVID-19 pandemic and earned its best school grade in 7 years
    • Kenly Elementary School jumped to a “B” grade for the first time in the school’s history
    • The fifth lowest-performing traditional public school in Florida, Moseley Elementary School, became a place where students thrive through Academic Teaming

These are just a few of our school improvement stories. What each has in common is that these schools and districts had the courage to deviate from the traditional turnaround programs and focus on rebuilding the systems of rigorous core instruction and student motivation. Typical school reform = quick fixes like scripted programs and heavy remediation. If you want radically different school improvement results, utilize 11 secrets for rigorous grade-level instruction that develops student agency.… Click To Tweet

LSI’s 11 school improvement “secrets”

Throughout the 2021-22 school year, LSI’s Applied Research Center is releasing full-length articles and webinars offering practical tips and examples for each of our 11 secrets for school improvement. We’ll link to each article and webinar here as we publish them. Read the highlights below.

1. Create a teacher coaching and support system rather than providing one-off professional development opportunities

Virtually every school improvement program involves professional development for teachers. The learning from these courses often goes unimplemented for one simple reason: teachers don’t have access to an aligned, long-term, comprehensive coaching and support system. Teacher support systems are the key for continuous professional growth and development which ultimately benefits students. Using a few best practices can make a big difference.

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2. Go beyond standard-based lesson planning by focusing on whether instruction translates to student evidence

A big mistake that many educators make in their school improvement efforts is simply putting standards-based planning and instruction requirements in place but not having a way of monitoring whether it translates to improved student evidence. Monitoring tools and techniques ensure that you’ll know on a daily basis whether all students are demonstrating evidence of the grade-level standards.

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3. Empower teachers as experts and build ownership in PLCs instead of scripting instruction

Teachers should be the experts in their own classrooms. Unfortunately, many school improvement programs fail to treat teachers like the professionals they are, instead opting for heavily scripted lessons. Setting up specific systems through PLCs and aligned coaching techniques builds teacher autonomy, which improves teacher skill, retention, and adult social emotional support.

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4. Become an agile school with short-cycle data (weekly metrics) instead of relying on lagging data

The usual metrics to track student progress for school improvement are long-cycle data (such as state test scores, benchmark or diagnostic testing, and end-of-course assessments). Instead, an agile data improvement process with daily and weekly classroom walk metrics and student work is a much more proactive way of using student data to improve teaching and learning. The trick is knowing what to look for and how to use this leading data in the continuous improvement process for core instruction.

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5. Accelerate in Tier 1 core instruction rather than relying on remediation

How many times have you heard that the best way to personalize learning for students performing below grade level is to “meet students where they are?” The remedial approach may sound logical in theory, but failing to offer rigorous grade-level content in core instruction holds students back from ever catching up. Instead, using methods that accelerate learning and close gaps in real time is much more effective for school improvement.

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6. Empower students to create a positive school culture rather than creating an overcontrolled environment

Many turnaround programs resort to methods of strict discipline to control student behavior. Instead, creating classroom structures that give students roles and responsibilities is a more sustainable way of preventing behavior problems and ultimately creating a positive school culture and climate. Building capacity in students along with the freedom to self-regulate their own behavior might sound daunting, but with the right systems in place it builds invaluable life skills such as student agency, which environments of over control fail to develop in their students.

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7. Leverage student peer relationships, not just student-teacher relationships

We know student-teacher relationships are crucial for learning. But developing positive student peer relationships is just as important and is a missed opportunity for many school improvement educators. Peers are uniquely situated to support one another, push and challenge one another, and connect in ways that they might not be able to with adults. Academic Teaming structures help teachers move past the usual disorganization and shallowness of student interaction and into deeper learning and positive peer relationships.

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8. Focus on academics as the root cause of negative student behavior, not as an unrelated issue

Often, educators tend to attribute negative student behavior to external factors such as a student’s home life. The most successful school improvement approaches make the connection between student behavior and academics. When schools use specific strategies designed to restore students’ hope in their own abilities, engage them in their learning, and empower them to track their own progress, behavior and achievement improve simultaneously.

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9. Encourage students to track their own academic progress rather than leaving it to the teacher alone

In most schools, it’s up to the teacher or assessment system to track academic progress. What if students tracked their own data? This is one of the rarest strategies used for school improvement, but giving students a way to self-track their progress in real time yields incredible learning and motivational benefits. The key is creating the right classroom systems to make the right data accessible to students.

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10. Release students to productive struggle and increase academic rigor and challenge – don’t water down student tasks or “overteach”

In most schools, instruction is mainly teacher-centered. Students are expected to quietly listen to the teacher talk and then complete a worksheet or other low-rigor task to demonstrate their understanding. Productive struggle is critical for deeper learning, but students have few or no opportunities to experience productive struggle in traditional learning environments. Specific support structures can make academic rigor accessible for every student and help teachers move away from “overteaching.”

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11. Build and leverage community support rather than leaving parent and family engagement on the back burner

It is all too easy to let go of community support and family and parent engagement when you are dealing with the many crises and demands of the school improvement process. But it’s important to take the time to keep engagement strong and celebrate your wins. This approach supports the whole child, in and out of school, and promotes social emotional learning. Several best practices can make your school a shining example in the community.

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At Learning Sciences International, our social mission is to end generational poverty and equity gaps through rigorous core instruction. Our track record for school turnaround is unprecedented. I hope you will subscribe to these free resources on our proven school improvement processes that are practical and focused on helping administrators and other educators. Want to stay in the loop on the 11 School Improvement Secrets for Radically Different Results blog and free webinar series? Sign up now for updates straight to your inbox.

About LSI

Our vision for education is to close the achievement gap. Equip all students with the social, emotional, and cognitive skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. Expand equity by giving every child access to rigorous core instruction that empowers learners to free themselves from generational poverty. Learn More

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