LFA Members Agree on The Elements of Success

By Richard M. Long

New compendium identifies successful schools by bringing together common elements and interactions from 12 groups representing educators, policymakers, and parents

The research and best practices behind Learning First Alliance’s new compendium, “The Elements of Success: 10 Million Speak on Schools That Work,” are not necessarily new. But what is unique in this report is how the six major elements fit together into the concepts of consensus and interaction.

First, consensus; which is the idea that educators and parents from across the country and across a wide range of disciplines and experiences have found significant agreement. Each of LFA’s 12 member associations had asked their members, “What is important for school success?”  What they found was that there is fundamental agreement on six elements which are outlined in the compendium.

This doesn’t mean that there were no individual recommendations; on the contrary, we did find several unique ideas. However, as the compendium was developed we found that those unique ideas also are supported by their sister organizations. These ideas are not outliers; as they have become part of a comprehensive set of ideas.

The second unique feature is the interaction of these ideas. Over the last few years, the idea of school improvement had become one formula competing with another formula. Usually these competing formulas are advocated by government leaders at the state and federal levels. Some of these ideas attempted to create a rapid change in the education system, especially when trying to help schools with large numbers of vulnerable children (those living in conditions of poverty, disabled, or language minority).  Or they were trying to trigger change by focusing on accountability. Both ideas--focusing on vulnerable children and accountability--are important, but do not create the conditions for large-scale change. 

LFA determined that success occurs when the primary understanding of what each student needs is reflected in how a school is organized.  Student-centered buildings work with the strengths they have and acquire what they need.

The “Elements of Success” provides each school and school district with a set of ideas of what they should be looking for in their buildings and systems. Examples of these ideas are built into these questions: Do they have a focus on the total child--both academically and socially?  Do they have the professional development needed for their staffs to always be adapting to meet changing conditions? Or, do they have the family and community engagement in sufficient depth to build the support they need?

“The Elements of Success” is about local abilities and needs that in turn have the needed state and federal support for improvement. 

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