School-Level Factors at Home
I’ve been reading Robert Marzano’s book What Works in Schools. Marzano closely examined 35 years of reliable research in education and summarized those things that schools, teachers and students do that directly impacts student achievement. His chapter on “School-Level Factors” struck a chord with me as I considered our K¹² Virtual Academies.
Marzano listed six key areas on which effective schools focus their efforts. I couldn’t help but see how Learning Coaches (K-8 parents and guardians) and Mentors (High School parents and guardians) can use this same information to improve the effectiveness of their home learning environments.
A Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum: Marzano states that successful schools provide students with an excellent curriculum that is delivered as intended with adequate time in which to learn it. In my humble opinion, K¹² does a great job of delivering the content needed using researched-based tried-and-true methods of instruction. The best thing a learning coach or mentor can do is to make sure that the curriculum is delivered to students and that the students are given adequate time to work on it. That means ensuring daily effort in courses and providing a distraction-free environment in which to learn.
Challenging Goals and Effective Feedback: Marzano found that effective schools set challenging goals for students and providing them with feedback regarding their progress on meeting those goals. Learning coaches and mentors can set goals – both large and small – with their students and provide feedback on their efforts. For example, one might set a goal to complete 5 lessons in each course every week. By reviewing the Online School or Learning Management System, the parent or guardian can know whether to applaud the student’s efforts or to help them to reach their goal the next week. Larger goals could include attaining a specific letter grade in a course or create a plan that will get them into the college of their choice.
Parent and Community Involvement: Successful schools had a high level of involvement by parents and community groups. I can’t imagine a more involved parent than one who is monitoring their own child’s learning in their own home. Staying involved in that process is critical, particularly for High School Mentors. Knowing whether or not your student has logged into courses today, are submitting assignments on-time and are preparing for assessments is critical to student success. Communication with teachers and school staff is also key – something that’s quite easy with K-mail.
Safe and Orderly Environment: Okay – there’s probably not a lot of bullying and gangs in your home learning environment. But providing an orderly environment is key. Establishing routines and schedules for school work, general expectations of time and effort of the students, and teaching self-management and responsibility are all well within the reach of Learning Coaches and Mentors.
- Collegiality and Professionalism: Marzano indicates that staff acting in a professional and collegial manner, being involved in the decisions made in the school and engaging in staff development is key in effective schools. Learning Coaches and Mentors can also apply this to their role as well. Communicating in a collegial manner with teachers and school staff, taking part in school governance (e.g. think attending school board meetings) and attending training sessions provided by K¹² (e.g. Live Expert Speaker Series) are realistic ways parents and guardians can stay involved.
We make great curriculum and have wildly talented staff at our schools. But Marzano’s work hammers home the important role of you – the parents and guardians of the K¹² students in their success in school.