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November 30, 2023

4 min

Dr. Jessica Spallino

Operating Quality School Programs: Five Ways Schools Can Be Student-Focused

Research studies continue to show that the more student centered an educational environment can be, the more supported and ultimately successful a student can be. Though it may seem logical that a school who serves students would naturally be centered around the student, that assumption isn't always true, unfortunately. Many obstacles are presented to educators regularly that impede an authentic student focused approach from the latest legislative requirement to new or amended standards to which students must learn and teachers must teach. There are, however, many ways to continue to refine a program that can create a focus on the student’s individual abilities, needs and preferences. 

The following five components can help build a program that not only aligns to the requirements a school must adhere to, but also creates a variety of opportunities to reach students on a more individual level that can ultimately foster success:

1. Meet students where they are

Student focused programs develop the tools and practices that empower educators to support students at their current state and performance. Rather than a traditional approach of building a program standardized model to which students can conform, student focused programs invent ways to accommodate the student based on where they are performing and adjust tools and practices from that point. 

For example, within a student focused program, students are assessed upon their enrollment within the program and key areas are immediately identified as to where teachers need to provide interventions, such as supplemental content or adapted instruction. Additionally, upon the completion of the initial assessment, teachers can develop personalized growth plans in order to meet individual objectives for the student. The student can then be assessed as regularly as needed to ensure continuous refinements are made to their instructional plans. 

2. Develop relationships and trust

Relationship building may be the most important component of a genuine student focused program. Students of all grades respond best to teachers with whom they have developed a relationship, as trust becomes a foundation of that relationship. Once trust has been cultivated between teachers and their students (parents too), they know that their personal success and well-being is at the heart of that relationship. This knowledge can most often ignite an intrinsic motivation to grow and do their best. The safety within the relationship generated by that trust, empowers the students to potentially take risks within their journeys which will ultimately build resilience and a deeper commitment to their ultimate success. Taking the time to get to know each student, his parents, his interests, strengths and areas for growth will always benefit and increase the opportunity to support the whole student and unlock potential success. 

3. Implement personalized practices daily 

Creating a student focused program involves tireless, consistent work that is never complete. Developing systems and practices that enable personalized interaction with students as regularly as possible is critical for effective student alignment. Whether within a traditional classroom or an independent study program, regular check ins and diversified practices that provide opportunities for individualized support, fortify the emphasis on students and what their dynamic needs may be. This can be in the form of one-on-one chats that go over a previous lesson that enables the teacher to assess the student’s concept retention within a modality that is focused on the individual student. Additionally, it can be small group instructional sessions that are aligned to assessment performance reports that reveal similar needs for more instruction. These daily interactions make the difference in reaching students in a more personal and targeted way for ultimate investment and success. 

4. Regulary Conduct academic and preferential inventories

Gathering feedback from students on various elements of the program on a regular basis can help to continuously refine the program and ensure they are closely aligned to the student’s needs. Requirements may change or student’s perspectives may change, making it very useful to continue to hear how students are doing. There are endless tools available today to streamline a survey process that incorporates buy in from teachers, students and even their parents. If surveys become a regular part of how the school operates, then getting ample participation in them becomes easier. Once feedback is received, it is imperative that that feedback is actively used to make adjustments to the program. Once the feedback isn’t used, students will no longer see the point of providing it. There are other ways to retrieve feedback from students besides online surveys. Feedback can be noted during one to one meetings teachers have with their students or perhaps during events or gatherings where students may feel at ease to share their opinions and even needs. 

5. Provide ample opportunities to connect

I have never seen students more open and invested then when they are in situations where they are able to connect to others. Making connections with their peers and their teachers has an impact on their level of investment in their success. Research continues to show a correlation between student success and their relationship with their teachers and their overall school community. These forms of connection can be as basic as one-on-one time with their teachers on a regular basis to not only discuss their academic progress, but their personal hopes and goals. Over time, the individual meetings foster a relationship that as described above, can foster trust that can further a student’s investment in their personal success. Students also benefit greatly from feeling part of an overall community and that is exemplified through community events with their peers. Some of the events can be determined by the ongoing feedback you receive from students on what they enjoy doing. Further community building is possible trough service-earning opportunities. These are not only fun, but nothing builds community more than serving others alongside your peers.  

These are some examples that I've found to make a difference for Method Schools students. Though these may work for some schools, each school is different and the students to which they serve are unique. Getting to know your students and their families and developing relationships with them is key in developing a program that genuinely caters to them and fosters success for all.

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