Read Educator’s Edition
Shout-out to Success: Vibrant Stories in Virginia Schools
Leading Vibrant Inclusive Schools
By Cathy Buyrn, M.Ed.
School leaders are more than two years into the most challenging times of their careers and the accomplishments of stakeholders across school communities have been nothing short of amazing. Despite the impacts of COVID-19, remote learning, domestic political unrest, and war overseas, teaching and learning have been happening in classrooms and homes across the country. While pundits have focused on learning loss and teacher shortages, most educators have continued to show up for one another and for students. It is tempting to fall into the negative echo chamber about the state of schools, but this edition of Link Lines Educators Lesson, Shout-Out to Success: Vibrant Stories in VA Schools, captures voices from the field celebrating success during the 2021-2022 school year. These educators are excited about continuing to use innovations inspired by the unique opportunities that arose during this time of uncertainty.
It is more important now than ever for school leaders to reflect on the lessons learned and to leverage that learning focused on the positive. It remains true that “multiple-choice tests cannot assess some of our highest aspirations for our children, such as curiosity, a love of learning, and resourcefulness” (Tschannen-Moran & Clement, 2018, p. 28). As schools return to mandated standardized testing, it is important that they do so without returning to practices proven ineffective (e.g., teaching to the test, test format drilling, celebrations limited to test scores). Ineffective practices focused on testing can be the most damaging for historically marginalized students, such as students with disabilities.
Achievement gaps for specific student groups should be monitored and used to drive school improvement efforts that balance positive and productive strategies with test-driven practices. School leaders are responsible for creating a sense of calm when test scores fall short of expectations. When test-score panic drives improvement efforts, schools can become “dreary and discouraging places rather than joyful learning communities” (Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2015, p. 257). Safety and trust among all members of a school community are foundational in vibrant, inclusive, and successful schools.
School leaders can establish productive learning conditions for staff and students that foster trust and confidence fueled by three dimensions of vibrant schools: enlivened minds, emboldened voice, and playful learning. Tschannen-Moran, Clement, and a team of doctoral students at William & Mary developed these environmental indicators for vibrant schools found in Table 1.
Dimensions and Environmental Indicators of Vibrant Schools
(Tschannen-Moran, n.d. -a, para. 4)
|Emboldened Voice||Democratic Decision Processes
(including teachers, students, and parents)
(Tschannen-Moran, n.d. -a, para. 4)
(Tschannen-Moran & Clement, 2018, pp. 30, 32)
School leaders can measure the level of vibrant school dimensions in their schools by administering the Vibrant Schools Scale Survey (Tschannen-Moran, n.d.-b) at this link. The survey tool requires registration but is available free of charge. This page also offers a variety of tools that can be used to explore teacher efficacy, principal efficacy, trust, and school climate.
There are additional tools and professional development resources available to support increasing trust and vibrancy in schools. School leaders can use appreciative inquiry to explore strengths, share stories, imagine possibilities, and take productive action (Tschannen-Moran & Clement, 2018). Identified themes can be used to build vision and mission statements that drive strength-based school improvement efforts that support school vibrancy and inclusiveness. Addressing school culture can be a daunting task, but the resources at schoolretool.org provide opportunities for school leaders to model quick wins and facilitate deep learning for adults and students.
As school communities recover from challenges faced in recent years, it is critical for school leaders to reflect and facilitate strength-based conversations focused on building and sustaining vibrant and inclusive learning environments. Acknowledging and celebrating growth, innovation, and success generates momentum and motivation across the school community. Adults and students in vibrant and inclusive schools are far more likely to achieve academically and socially in addition to co-creating joyful spaces and experiences (Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2015). Adults in such joyful spaces are more likely to be inspired by academic goals and believe in their ability to meet students’ needs. Students in the care of inspired professionals will experience cycles of learning that build their skills and confidence. Vibrant and inclusive school communities are places that adults and students want to be and school leaders who facilitate these conditions will be better positioned to tackle any challenges ahead.
Tschannen-Moran, M. (n.d.-a). Megan Tschannen-Moran’s Website. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://wmpeople.wm.edu/site/page/mxtsch/home
Tschannen-Moran, M. (n.d.-b). Survey instruments to help in your investigation of schools [Research Tools Website]. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from ttps://wmpeople.wm.edu/site/page/mxtsch/researchtools
Tschannen-Moran, M., & Clement, D. (2018). Fostering more vibrant schools. Educational Leadership, 75(6), 28–33.
Tschannen-Moran, M., & Gareis, C. R. (2015). Principals, trust, and cultivating vibrant schools. Societies, 5(2), 256-276. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/soc5020256