What Makes a Great School? Ask a Teacher.

Is it test scores? Not really, says social studies teacher Josh Cramer.

Josh Cramer is a social studies and history teacher at Smithsburg High School in Washington County.

The Protect Our Schools Act passed in the General Assembly on March 28. Now it’s in the hands of Governor Hogan who has until midnight on April 5 to sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto. But legislators are resolved to make Maryland’s implementation of ESSA one of the most pro-student, pro-public school agendas in the country with school accountability measures that span attendance, teacher quality, school safety and discipline, and protect against the privatization efforts of Governor Hogan, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and President Donald Trump.

Josh Cramer has been following the the 2017 General Assembly and providing commentary for Newsfeed. Here’s what he thinks makes a school great:

A great school means having a well thought out plan and strategy for student learning. Everyone from teachers, elected officials, school administrators, support staff, parents, and students need to have a clear set of goals and expectations.

Having adequate resources — including proper funding — are vital to making a school successful. But financial resources aren’t enough to make a school great. Elected officials and school administration need to find ways to attract and retain quality teachers.

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While salary can be an incentive for a teacher to come (and stay) at a school, most teachers want to be part of a dedicated team that believes in their mission to educate students and to build a strong community where they teach.

Parents and other community stakeholders play significant roles in ensuring the success of a school. Every teacher knows that parents who take an active part in their child’s education see more success in the classroom. Parents should be encouraged to reach out to their child’s teacher and discuss their child’s progress.

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And don’t forget the support staff! I have always reminded the stakeholders of my school’s community that the teacher’s work environment is the student’s learning environment. Therefore, everyone has a stake in making our schools the best they can be. Schools rely on education support staff to create a positive, friendly, productive, and clean environment.

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Without school secretaries, bus drivers, registrars, bookkeepers, teachers-aides, custodians, and volunteers, no school could function properly. Often these are the unsung heroes of our schools. Together they ensure that students and teachers have a clean, safe, and comfortable learning and teaching space.

A school’s success is measured by far more than test scores. In my experience, I can see that a school is succeeding when students want and have a wide range of elective course offerings including Advanced Placement classes. Successful schools offer before and after school clubs and athletic teams for students. Successful schools have parents that take a proactive approach towards their child’s education. And successful schools have teachers that care and work hard to ensure the success of every child.