A GQS Manifesto

High School Students Describe a Quality School

by the Students of Murray High School

Charlotte Wellen, English and Choices Lead Teacher


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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