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MS in Education Course Insight: 9 Characteristics of High-Performing Schools

Good schools have a number of key traits in common.

While schools aren’t businesses, they are organizations. And, like all organizations, schools can adopt best practices to help them achieve their organizational goals. By thinking of schools as organizations—and thinking of teachers as professionals, and students as the ultimate customer—you can better understand how systems, procedures, and organizational structure can positively impact your school in general and your classroom in particular. So, which organizational practices are best for schools?

Recently, the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools, a meticulously researched report outlining the characteristics shared by high-performing schools. As a required reading assignment, Walden University MSEd students learned about those nine characteristics. Here is an excerpt:1

MS in Education Course Insight: 9 Characteristics of High-Performing Schools

  1. A Clear and Shared Focus
    Everybody knows where they are going and why. The focus is on achieving a shared vision, and all understand their role in achieving the vision and demonstrating positive results for the students. The focus and vision are developed from common beliefs and values, creating a consistent direction for all involved.
  2. High Standards and Expectations for All Students
    Teachers and staff believe that all students can learn and meet high standards. While recognizing that some students must overcome significant barriers, these obstacles are not seen as insurmountable. Students are offered an ambitious and rigorous course of study.
  3. Effective School Leadership
    Effective instructional and administrative leadership is required to implement change processes. Effective leaders are proactive and seek help that is needed. They nurture an instructional program and school culture conducive to learning and professional growth. Effective leaders have different styles and roles—teachers and other staff, including those in the district office, often have a leadership role.
  4. High Levels of Collaboration and Communication
    There is strong teamwork among teachers across all grades and with other staff. Everybody is involved and connected to each other, including parents and members of the community, to identify problems and work on solutions.
  5. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessments Aligned With State Standards
    The planned and actual curricula are aligned with the essential academic learning requirements (EALRs). Research-based teaching strategies and materials are used. Staff understands the role of classroom and state assessments, what the assessments measure, and how student work is evaluated.
  6. Frequent Monitoring of Learning and Teaching
    A steady cycle of different assessments identifies students who need help. More support and instructional time are provided, either during the school day or outside normal school hours, to students who need more help. Teaching is adjusted based on frequent monitoring of student progress and needs. Assessment results are used to focus and improve instructional programs.
  7. Focused Professional Development
    A strong emphasis is placed on training staff in areas of most need. Feedback from learning and teaching focuses extensive and ongoing professional development. The support is also aligned with the school or district vision and objectives.
  8. Supportive Learning Environment
    The school has a safe, civil, healthy, and intellectually stimulating learning environment. Students feel respected and connected with the staff and are engaged in learning. Instruction is personalized and small learning environments increase student contact with teachers.
  9. High Level of Family and Community Involvement
    There is a sense that all have a responsibility to educate students, not just teachers and staff in schools. Families, as well as businesses, social service agencies, and community colleges/universities, all play a vital role in this effort.

How an Advanced Education Degree Can Help You Learn More

Washington state’s Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools is just one of the many materials you’ll have the opportunity to study if you enroll in Walden University’s Master of Science in Education (MSEd) degree program. This advanced teaching degree is designed to give you a deeper understanding of education, while improving your teacher credentials and preparing you to qualify for promotions and higher teacher’s salaries. It’s a great degree for teachers to earn. And thanks to Walden’s online learning format, earning a master’s in education is more convenient than ever before.

When you enroll in Walden’s master’s in education online program, you don’t have to live near a school of education. Instead, you can complete your MSEd degree coursework right from home. Plus, an online master’s in education allows you to attend class at whatever time of day works best for you—a convenience that makes it possible to earn your master’s degree in education while continuing to teach full time.

If you want to become a teacher who understands the organizational best practices of schools—and who can apply the best teaching strategies for your classroom in order to benefit students—taking advantage of online education and enrolling in Walden’s MSEd degree program is an excellent choice.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Education degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,