EDITH CHEGE: EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS

Schools all over the world are implementing reforms to become centers of excellence and produce globally competitive students. The culture, values and beliefs of a school community matter in determining how a school performs .How is a school culture established? School mission and vision statements play a significant role in setting a school’s culture, clarifying the roles and relationships of the members of the school community and designing the desired outcomes .It works when a school has got good leadership ,well trained and motivated manpower , Integrated curriculum ,safe and orderly environment ,strong support from the parents and the community ,positive expectations and relevant learning and teaching resources .
Effective schools have strong inspiring vision and mission statements .For instance the following is a vision statements for one of the best schools in Kenya:
Starehe Boys Centre: To be a global center of excellence in youth development, effectively providing leadership and academic skills geared toward promotion of a just and caring society that is founded on high moral standards.

The vision statement communicate the principal objectives of a school .It is a driving force towards the attainment of a school’s goals .It gives the direction the students, teachers and other school’s stakeholders should take in order to achieve their shared goals .When displayed on all the corners of the school, it defines the expectations and future of the students. A mission statement summarizes the steps and plan on how to achieve the targets a school has established .Vision and mission statements should be developed through the collaboration of the administrators and teachers to keep them alive. Lezotte (1991) points out that effective schools have clearly articulated school mission through which the staff shares an understanding of and commitment to instructional goals, priorities, assessment procedures and accountability.
School leadership determine the degree at which the school’s community believes in the vision and mission statement .Good principals believe and pursue the school’s vision and mission statements .This increase the confidence the teachers have on their supervisor .Effective instructional supervisors are committed to model the school community by persuading the teachers ,students and parents to persistently follow the school’s vision and mission .The results are great when the teachers are willing to work with the administrators .Therefore the administrators should ensure that teachers are active in the decision making processes ,including the designing of the school’s vision and mission statement . Imposing changes to teachers does not work. Teachers should be involved in identifying problems around teaching and learning .In daily classroom experience, it is the teacher who has the core details of issues affecting learning. The teacher should also be given the opportunity to provide solutions for these problems. The principal should also be able to encourage the teachers talents and interest by supporting their professional development ,coaching the inexperienced teachers and restoring those that are down trodden .They have strong interpersonal skills like good communication ,give equal opportunities to all teachers, listen effectively , are adaptive ,appreciative, team players and are aware of what is happening in the school and are activators of new projects that are beneficial to the learners .These skills help them to strengthen the relationship between the administration ,teachers ,students and the community .On top of that ,they should provide the learning and teaching resources needed to achieve the school’s goals .They are also responsible of working collaboratively with the teachers to give directions to students in a way that provides clear ,easy and useful guidance .
One great thing evident in effective schools is a team of self- motivated teachers, who arrive at school early in the morning, are busy through the scheduled time and mostly remain at school in the evening .These teachers have confidence in their ability to perform and change the learning of their students.
Their expectations are high and these is translated to the expectations of the learners :learners live the expectations of those who directly influence them .These kind of teachers do not wait on administration to be reminded of their daily responsibilities .They are busy developing and applying knowledge of curriculum ,instructions ,principles of learning and evaluation to implement the school’s vision .Through their commitment to work ,students are impressed and develop a desire to reach higher academic goals .These teachers have personal vision which inspire them to teach with purpose .They welcome and address diversity in the classroom by treating all the students in the classroom equal regardless of their skin color ,physical and mental ability ,gender ,region and family background .They provide the best learning opportunities for all students by employing cultural responsive pedagogical skills .These pedagogical skills includes cooperative learning, incorporating multicultural information and resources in all subjects. They create strong classroom culture like listening and responding positively to the learners, tracking the speaker, high classroom control and accommodate the learners differentiated needs .All these have a positive impact on the student attitude towards schooling .Effective schools have got teachers who care for the students.
Effective schools have safe and orderly environment .This is an environment that is perceived immediately one enters the school’s compound: well- maintained infrastructure, sense of order, systematic flow of school activities and highly disciplined students. In such an environment, the students are comfortable and their concentration span in the classroom is high for there is minimal external-distractors. The principal and the teachers should provide security to protect the students from physical, mental and emotional damage .This include protection against prejudice, violence, trauma, substance abuse and threats .How much was learning hurt in the school that twenty one students were murdered within the school’s grounds? Learners exposed to harmful school environment may fail to develop essential skills and knowledge for life.
Parent and community involvement is very useful .When parents monitor the progress of their children at school ,the children put more effort for they know their parents value education .The community may participate by sponsoring some of the school’s projects for the success of the school. A successful school is reflected in the society by the presence of productive citizens.
Finally and not least, students have a major role in making a school shine. All the factors discussed above work well when the students are respectful, disciplined, hardworking, motivated, cooperative and organized.