A GQS Manifesto

High School Students Describe a Quality School

by the Students of Murray High School

Charlotte Wellen, English and Choices Lead Teacher

and

by the Students of Canterbury High School,

Diann Causey, Principal and Teacher

Spring 2003


A Quality High School. . .

 

    • Guarantees students the education they want by:
        • emphasizing an independent environment which acknowledges student willingness to accept responsibility for their own learning;
            • including independent study courses and online courses;
            • trusting students to work outside of the classroom or school environment whenever appropriate;
            • being open to individualizing course requirements as necessary to meet student needs, desires and learning styles;
            • being trustworthy — taking care of the needs of all parties by acknowledging the teacher’s responsibility to know where students are at all times;
        • offering courses that are:
            • fun;
            • relevant to students’ and teachers’ lives;
            • accepting and nurturing of the individual;
            • varied;
            • stimulating;
            • challenging;
            • paced well;
            • involving higher level thinking skills, beyond simple memorization;
            • organized;
            • needs fulfilling;
            • often hands-on;
            • of high quality;
            • passionate;
            • important;
            • thorough;
            • full of field trips;
            • stick in your head
      • enabling students to:
          • confidently speak out their opinions;
          • research their theories and to support them with evidence;
          • be knowledgeable about content areas;
          • be accomplished readers and writers;
          • consider themselves citizens of the world;
          • use Choice Theory in their lives to build strong, needs fulfilling relationships;
          • pass all the SOL tests and achieve a diploma of state verified credits;
          • do well in SAT and AP exams, if they choose to go on to college;
          • pursue whatever futures they choose, whether in the business world or in college;

 

A Quality High School. . .

 

    • Involves all community members in school decision-making by:
        • Following the RAMPS commitments;
            • Respecting ourselves, each other and our environment;
            • Attending regularly;
            • Mediating when necessary;
            • Participating actively;
            • Sharing personal gifts with the community;
      • Meeting regularly as an entire school to participate in decision-making;
          • Following procedures agreed upon by the whole community;
          • Discussing decisions, issues, problems and concerns facing the community, such as:
              • Handling censorship issues together;
              • Deciding on a dress code that everyone agrees is respectful;
              • Participating in design and implementation of classes;
              • Selecting staff;
              • Recruiting new students;
              • Clarifying and respecting one another’s rights and boundaries;
              • Setting non-negotiables and honoring them;
              • Understanding that we cannot control one another’s behavior choices;
          • Suggesting solutions in the large group, or dividing into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas and possibilities;
          • Making decisions on a consensus model whenever possible;
          • Living by the decisions we make together;
          • Committing to work on our community relationship.

 

A Quality High School. . .

 

    • Handles Conflicts By:
        • remembering that we have agreed to treat one another with respect at all times;
        • understanding that conflicts are a natural part of relationship-building and can be worked out;
        • taking time to calm down and to decide if the conflict is important enough to mediate;
        • bringing in a third (neutral) party who is acceptable to both teacher and student, to help mediate the conflict;
        • bringing in parents to participate in working out the conflict, so that they become familiar with the language we use to work out problems;
        • recognizing that all parties in a conflict have their own versions of events and that everyone has a right to that version;
        • coming to the mediation table willing to create a solution, so we can all be comfortable working together in our community;
        • agreeing to prevent as many conflicts as we can by avoiding hurtful gossip and personal attacks;
        • creating together a community environment that is non-coercive, safe, accepting, friendly, and needs-fulfilling, where we all feel comfortable and even happy to come to school every day.

 

A Quality High School. . .

 

    • Builds a reputation by:
        • creating an environment of mutual respect among students, faculty, administration, parents and the surrounding community;
            • rising above stereotypes by getting to know one another and learning to accept and appreciate one another’s differences;
            • holding regular community meetings where everyone works together to support and improve the school;
            • living by a commitment to work out all conflicts and to maintain a safe environment that is violence- and harassment-free;
        • placing academics beyond reproach;
            • making personal commitments to strive for a quality product in at least one major project every year;
            • refusing to accept mediocrity in all work;
            • taking standardized testing seriously and making use of our scores to demonstrate the effectiveness of our entire program;
            • entering local, state and national competitions to establish our talents and brilliance;
      • being substance abuse free;
      • volunteering, as an entire school community, to help out in the neighborhood;
      • establishing together a responsible dress code that also respects individuality;
      • creating a supportive relationship with surrounding high schools;
          • presenting short assemblies in local high schools to introduce ourselves, so they will know who we are and what we are about;
          • sponsoring workshops for interested schools to help them create their own manifestos.

 

A Quality High School. . .

 

  • Evaluates and assesses work by:
      • determining together the criteria for successful completion of each project;
      • using available local, state and national standards to establish our baseline of achievement;
          • celebrating individual successes, which may not be evident through standardized testing;
          • accepting standardized testing as an important validation of our program and working together to achieve our best;
      • emphasizing self-evaluation, rather than teacher-evaluation;
          • working on projects that matter to us so that our motivation to do well is not placed on earning the highest grade, but on achieving a quality final product that we can be proud of;
          • having student/parent/teacher conferences, rather than teacher/parent conferences;
          • having students decide if their work deserves the designation of Quality;
    • accepting only work that has passed at least 80% of the criteria for success;
      • continuing to work together to raise student mastery to 80% and beyond;
      • establishing a grade of Q, meaning Quality, which individuals award themselves;
      • working toward a Quality product at least one time per year.
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