Race and Class don’t have to be predictors of achievement.
The Achievement Gap can be closed.
It is possible to reach new education heights with: An existing institution; A student body that is overwhelmingly English Language Learners; A student body that is overwhelmingly low socioeconomic status. If you lead with your heart, the test scores, the Gold Ribbon honors, the accolades will follow.
This is a 10-step actionable plan for turning around any school, anywhere.
We are living proof that community can transform public education.
1. Heart-first leadership
Revolutionary education starts with radical love. Radical love starts with heart-first leadership.
Radical love starts with heart-first leadership. Leaders who see “teacher,” “literacy coach” and “principal” as titles, not job descriptions. Counselors, friends, translators, community leaders, mentors (to name a few) who believe their jobs – no matter the weekends consumed, the candles burned – start and end with the success of their students.
Accolades will come, averages will change, but their achievements will be measured by the impact of these leaders. Leaders like the staff of Venetia Valley.
2. Disrupt TOLERANCE
We won't condone "business as usual" anymore.
For our kids to excel it starts with disrupting expectations – with a supportive community renouncing tolerance for inequity. We know education is key to overcoming the paradigm of inequity.
Our schooling goes beyond “business as usual.” We imbue our kids with the strength, confidence and tools to reject the stereotypes and inequality often thrust upon them by a broken system.
Social stereotypes will be upended, outdated conventions will be challenged, tolerance will be redefined.
3. Cultivate a culture of college
Elementary school is just another way of saying, "preparing for the future."
Students at Venetia Valley are taught that success isn’t an idea; it’s something to achieve. Our dedicated community provides the support, resources and inspiration needed for our students to create the futures they want.
Confidence and competence, clear individual voices, power – every kid is instilled with the drive and tools to achieve their goals, whatever they may be.
The future is on the horizon. It’s our job to lift our students up so they can see it.
4. Endless education
Developing brains need developing teachers.
We believe that if our kids’ brains are growing, then so should our teachers’ and volunteers’. We provide clear pathways and opportunities for professional development so our staff can be the best prepared to be there for our kids, no matter the situation.
When we say “teacher” we mean “lifelong learner.”
5. GIve families space
If you want family engagement, you need a place where they can engage.
It’s simple: Effective schools have engaged families. To foster a greater sense of community we opened The Family Center. Here, people gather, celebrate, learn, and in the process become true partners in their kids’ educational experience. They are encouraged to express their hopes and dreams for their children and their school, and we work together to meet these goals.
We haven’t redefined what “family” means, we’ve just given it room to grow.
6. Achievement is a byproduct
Gold ribbon school has a nice ring to it. United States Senator has a better one.
We aren’t saying strong scores on state tests are a bad thing. Rather, they’re an asterisk on a bigger picture where creating a positive environment to succeed takes precedence over awards and honors. We focus on kids getting an education in a supportive community, learning the skills to achieve their own individual goals. Everything else is peripheral.
A school with well-loved and well-educated kids gets Gold Ribbons. Not the other way around.
7. own the place
Students with pride in their school foster a sense of ownership, and ownership helps to build a comfortable, educational environment where they can thrive. And it shows. In recent surveys 90 percent of our Venetia Valley families believe their kids have a “sense of belonging.” Even better: The #1 word used by our kids to describe their school is “family.”
It’s not just a school, it’s their school.
8. Data to the people
We show our kids the statistics to remind them that they aren’t one.
At Venetia Valley, our knowledge is everyone’s knowledge. By ensuring that everyone – students, teachers, family members – has access to the same information and the same knowledge of what to do with it, we’re able to work towards our goals as a community, help each other up when we fail, and celebrate together when we succeed.
You can’t help fix what you don’t know.
9. Assess thyself
When kids help create their own path, they know where they’re going.
It isn’t that we don’t believe in assessment. We just look at it a little differently.
Every student is an individual, and these individuals forge their own paths with their own potential. We help our students determine their goals, and they hold themselves accountable for achieving them. Success isn’t based on statistical comparisons, A-pluses or aced quizzes. It looks different for every single student, exactly as it should be.
Our kids are all their own poster child.
10. reach for the stars
To find staff without limits, search without them.
We pride ourselves on providing an education above and beyond the standards of the public school system. To do this we search far and wide for skilled, passionate teachers/teaching aides/educational coaches, through a large and active network of community and educational partners. We seek staff members who will live and breathe the Venetia Valley model, who will go above and beyond to instill our kids with a love of learning and a confidence to succeed regardless of what life throws their way.
We don’t just want educators, we want the best educators.