Meeting high expectations

June 1, 2014 

It’s been said before, but one of the biggest motivators for student achievement is having high expectations. At Lake Myra Elementary, expectations involve more than just learning to read and write.

James Argent, principal at the Wendell school, has instituted a program called the Leader in Me. It’s designed to give students, faculty and staff more responsibility for successes at the school. For students, that means taking responsibility for good behavior and instituting the precepts of Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Those ideals call for students to take an active role in managing their classroom, working with other students and owning their own mistakes.

At a recent open house, those characteristics were on display. Students led school and classroom tours, students explained their work in a dizzying array of clubs and students even took on the responsibility of waiting on tables during lunch.

The success of the program, instituted just this year, will be measured ultimately, the way other teaching methodologies are: through test scores.

But there’s one thing test scores can’t measure, and for parents trying to find the best school for their child, this is an important standard: The school environment is open and welcoming. Students greet you and introduce themselves. Students shake your hands like little adults.

The adults who work at Lake Myra Elementary have come to expect those behaviors and the students – as they so often will – have lived up to those expectations.

The Leader in Me philosphy isn’t just targeted to older elementary students. Kindergartners make use of it. Students in special education classes make use of it.

Setting high expectations starts at the top, in our opinion. Argent, the principal, is passionate about the idea that students can handle these grown-up responsibilities. He believes that in meeting those expectations, students will learn better because some of the distractions that are impediments to learning are wiped clean by the students themselves.

Argent’s role was, first, to get his faculty and staff on board. He appears to have done that. Teachers in the classroom seem excited about incorporating the Leader in Me philosophies. Their excitement has been passed on to their students.

As these students extend themselves to reach the higher expectations asked of them, it seems likely they will develop higher expectations of their own. For some that might mean they expect academic excellence of themselves. For others, it may mean students demand more academic rigor from teachers.

Whatever form it takes, having higher expectations and holding people accountable for meeting them is a good thing in our schools.

Lake Myra Elementary is an example of just how that works.

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