Webinar Wednesday Recap: Creating a Culture of Literacy

Get tips on creating a culture of literacy from a principal who transformed one of the lowest performing schools into a National Model School.
Communicator
September 2018, Volume 42, Issue 1

In her career at Brockton High School in Massachusetts, Dr. Susan Szachowicz led a 4,300-student urban high school from being ranked as one of the lowest performing in the state to being recognized as a National Model School receiving awards and accolades for student achievement. How’d she do it? By focusing on literacy because reading and writing are critical to students’ success in and out of school.

Here’s what she did:

Empower the whole school. Too often, schools have separate classrooms, each one with their own expectations and standards. Encouraging teachers to transition from a “me” perspective to a “we” perspective was an effective first step in changing the school culture.

Pay attention to the data. Take a look at metrics for your school and use it to see where you should go from there. Analyzing her school’s data enabled Szachowicz and her team to establish a baseline and then chart the course for change.

Set clear expectations. The overall goal is to improve student achievement. But such a big goal can seem overwhelming. Focusing on one aspect—in this case literacy—and making sure teachers and students know that’s the focus puts everyone on the same page moving forward. 

Begin the step-by-step process. And that starts with the adults. She held literacy workshops in her school so the faculty could teach each other their lessons in reading and writing before they taught them to the students. Then, after tweaking their lessons to be as effective as possible, it was go time.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Szachowicz encourages principals to replicate what she’s done. Watch the full webinar or download the presentation for specific ways you can start implementing this process in your school.

This webinar is in part of NAESP’s Webinar Wednesday series.

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