Small-scale K-12 private schools struggle to make it in today’s education market. Competing with local preparatory and public schools is a big challenge. Recruiting new students, hiring and training faculty and staff, providing professional development opportunities, purchasing school furniture and supplies, and ordering books are additional hurdles. Generally, small-scale private schools have limited student enrollment or charge low annual tuition fees which greatly reduces the school’s financial resources, and creates a challenge for the school’s success. What’s a small private school to do? Here are six ways a small private school can prepare for a great school year:
1. Instruction – Remember to re-visit your school’s mission and vision statement regularly to stay focused. Debbie Shaibu of the Association of Private School advises, “student learning should be an integral part of your school’s objectives and should drive the school towards strategies to create an effective and supportive learning environment.” Ask yourself these important questions: Is our school culture focused on individual student ability and achievement? Is the physical environment conducive to learning? Are students learning? How do I know? Does our school provide teachers with adequate training on incorporating research-based teaching strategies and learning theories? How do teachers differentiate learning? What types of support and academic coaching/counseling are available to students? How do teachers assess students and provide feedback? How do teachers motivate students and help them become self-directed learners? How are teachers assessed and evaluated? How are the results of teacher assessments and evaluations used, and is it effective?
2. Administration – To create a strong private school, be sure to have a strong board and school administration. The school board should undertake board training to learn about what each member’s individual role and responsibility is, the appropriate procedures to hold board meetings and vote, the difference between board governance and school operations/administration, and partnering with your school administrators, parents, and volunteers for success.
3. Professional Development – Every school, for the sake of its students, must invest in professional development. This is an ongoing opportunity for teachers, administrators, board members, and staff to increase knowledge, professionalism, and effectiveness. Professional development is critical to education because without it students can suffer and fail. It’s critical for schools to stay abreast of the latest research in education, standards, trends, and technological advances to create 21st century learners. On a budget? Small-scale private schools can access a variety of free webinar s from ASCD, or use discounted rates through the Association of Private Schools to purchase in-depth ASCD individual courses (PD Online), school-wide PD (PD In Focus), or specialized digital program (PD Quick Kit). Additionally, online PD through Harry and Rosemary Wong’s Classroom Management and Effective Teacher Series are also available for discounted rates through the Association.
4. Involvement – Parents can be a great asset and resource to your school. Assess each parent’s abilities, strengths, and interests with a quick survey at the beginning of each school year. Potential roles can include classroom/library helper, substitute teacher, after-school program staff, field trip chaperone, fundraising coordinator, welcoming/recruiting committee, extra-curricular activity coordinator, and more. “Don’t fall into the trap of always asking of parents–remember to give back. Sponsor parent socials, parent’s night out, muffins for moms/doughnuts for dads, parent luncheons, and other specialized appreciation activities,” says Dr. Shaibu. Encourage parents to be involved in their child’s education at school and beyond. Involve parents in school decision making committees. Don’t forget to tap into the resources and sponsorship opportunities that are available through your local community business leaders, politicians, and corporations. Seek in-kind services, donations, and financial contributions.
5. Curriculum – Read this: the textbook is not the curriculum. Your school’s curriculum encompasses the body of content, materials, resources, assessments, etc., that your school uses as the framework for learning. Is your curriculum effective? How do you know? Were teachers and other key decision makers part of the curriculum planning process? List the strengths and weaknesses of your curriculum. What updates are needed?
6. School Improvement – Every school should have a school improvement plan that is created, reviewed, and regularly updated by a committee. Remember to include key stakeholders such as board members, parents, students, school administrators, teachers, staff, and community members in school improvement committees. Stay focused on your school’s mission and vision, and to the success of every student.
Through these 6 Key Steps (IAPICS), small-scale private schools can succeed. Rally your colleagues, and get on the path to success today.
For more information, visit the Association of Private School’s website at http://www.iapics.org and the blogsite at http://www.privateschoolsuccess.org. The mission of the Association of Private Schools is to “strengthen and enhance small-scale private schools by supporting Instruction, Administration, Professional Development, Involvement, Curriculum, and School Improvement (IAPICS).”