This article is about the important factors for running a good school. Teachers, principal, pupils etc is discussed to see what makes a good school.

Source: Clarion, 2007. 3 pages.

What is an Excellent School?

Excellent! Exceptional work! Sets the standard for the rest of the class!

If a student’s report card had these comments on it, parents would be reassured that their child was doing very well. While we don’t have an exact definition of what “excellent” means, comments like the ones above and marks in the mid-80s and higher would, by common consensus, label the child as an excellent student.                                    

Defining an excellent school becomes more difficult because the school is a very complex organization that defies easy analysis. Schools are human institutions, involving hundreds of techniques to determine the level of relationships in unpredictable situations. However, we don’t think twice about using a variety of excellence of our students. All our students are unique creations with different backgrounds, interests, and talents. Yet several times per school year our Christian schools issue report cards as an attempt to measure their students’ level of excellence. Are you able to issue a report card for your school?    

Quantitative Methods🔗

One method of measuring our level of excellence is using quantitative methods based on that give clear, measurable results. In Ontario we do not have external provincially- administered exams as they do in the western provinces, so we have limited quantitative results to work with. Ontario schools rely on some of the following external results:

  1. In May 2006, a study of all private schools in Ontario was conducted by a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario. Parents were selected at random and asked to complete a questionnaire that asked them to rate their school on sixty-one different questions. The following sample lists the points that these parents agreed or strongly agreed on as being characteristics of their private school.

  • High academic quality

  • Dedicated teachers

  • School values parent-teacher collaboration

  • Motivates students

  • Educates the whole child

  • Good discipline

  • Supports family values

  • School has a good reputation

  1. In the Literacy Test written by all grade ten students in Ontario last March, Christian private schools’ passing average is about ten percent higher than the provincial average.

  2. Over the last few years, approximately ninety percent of Christian private high school graduates have been accepted into the colleges and universities of their choice.

These quantitative measurements are helpful to measure the level of school excellence, but they are limited in the number of areas of a school operation that are measured. These kinds of measurements also tend to limit discussion. Can you imagine a parent-teacher conference where only student marks were discussed? Typically at these conferences more time is spent on talking about less measurable but very important factors such as personal qualities, learning styles, interests, and future plans. Similarly with schools, we have to find a way to talk about the deeper and more important elements that build school excellence but don’t lend themselves to easy measurement.

Qualitative evaluation🔗

We need to turn to qualitative evaluation. This refers to a general description of factors important to running a good school. While less precise than the former approach, qualitative evaluation allows for a better discussion of possibilities and addresses the wide range of important school activities.

In a study that I conducted among several high schools during my leave of absence in 2006, I was able to identity nine factors that tests excellent schools have in common. For each factor, I will give suggestions on how to apply it to your school.           

  1. Our schools need a clear focus or vision that is understood by the community, board, school administration, and teachers. The school vision allows the board, principal, and faculty to assess change agents and to balance the potential tensions of different views of what should happen in our schools.

    Many of our schools have a vision statement similar to the following: “Reformed education aims to assist the parents fulfil their baptismal promises by equipping the students to employ their talents in the service of God and his Kingdom.” To maintain excellence, the entire school community needs to reflect on a regular basis how this vision is integrated into daily instruction and learning at your local school. Making sure that in daily instruction the following concepts flow out of the school vision, teachers are to:       

  • emphasize God’s created order; stand in awe of his creation;         

  • assist students to develop their talents in service of God;    

  • help the student develop a Christian mind; teach discernment;

  • acknowledge the redeeming work of Christ; recognize that the world has not been   abandoned; keep in mind that knowing and fearing God is essential to attaining true knowledge and wisdom; reinforce faith of the students, remembering that we do not create faith or conversion.                         

  1. Our schools need high quality teachers who are life-long learners and interact with colleagues to establish best practices to help all students. To maintain this level of excellence, teachers attend many professional discussions and conferences throughout the year. New teachers require regular support from teacher-mentors and evaluation from their principal, with a view to emphasizing strengths and clearly outlining areas in which growth is required. More experienced teachers may benefit less from regular formal evaluation. A more effective method would be a formal self-assessment process every three years. Further accountability is maintained by regular classroom visits by the education committee and/or board.

  2. Our schools need a principal that is a strong leader and visionary who is responsible for supervising what happens in the school within broad policy parameters established by the board. To maintain this standard, school boards need to establish things such as a leave of absence, a clear job description, a formal principal’s evaluation every few years, and direct accountability to the board.

  3. Our schools need a clear understanding of student needs, especially for students “at risk.” To maintain this standard, high schools need to meet with parents and special-needs teachers from their elementary feeder schools to get a better understanding of students who may have learning difficulties. These students need to be closely monitored, their progress by reviewed and communicated to the parents, and they need to be provided with the in-class help of educational assistants. Less accepted is the concept of providing special programs for gifted students.

  4. Our schools need to focus on program selection to enhance learning and on a determination of what knowledge and skills are worthwhile to teach to the students. It is impossible for any school to teach students all the knowledge and skills in the subjects that we offer. Therefore, to maintain our level of excellence, teachers need to make choices of what information and programs best fit our school vision, and properly prepare our students for work and a life of service within their families, churches, and broader community. This selection process is assisted by input from education committees, and direct comments from parents. These programs must fit into a master plan from grade to grade, and not be dependent on the whim of a single teacher who takes the program along when moving to a different school.      

  5. Our schools must have a sense of pride in the school that involves not only enforcing the rules but also teaching good behaviour, so that students develop respect and self-discipline. Daily devotions and the examples set by the teachers show students the importance of showing Christian love in our walk and talk within our school community. At the high school level, student leadership can be developed through formal training sessions and regular reinforcement throughout the year. This process moves student leadership beyond organizing special events to a level where they have a vested interest in the school and provide good models for their school mates. Proper leadership training equips students with specific leadership skills and also helps them understand their roles within the context of Christian service.   

  6. There is a balance between school autonomy and accountability and recognition of what supports families’ value. Our schools are community schools with a clear sense of their history and local parental values. The boards maintain this standard with the support of representatives that reflect a cross-section of the community. This arrangement helps the board set clear policy that reflects the community they serve. The principal and teachers implement and are accountable to the board for these policies, yet are given freedom to operate within the limits of the policies.           

  7. There is an atmosphere of trust and professionalism that creates the environment to develop innovations and best teaching practices. This standard can be supported by a tradition of regular subject department or grade division meetings, staff meeting discussions, and many daily interactions among veteran and rookie teachers.   

  8. There is a clear communication to the supporting community of what the school is doing and its future plans. This communication helps to close the gap between actual school excellence and the perception that the community has of the school’s quality.

This last item is probably one of the most difficult standards to maintain. The good will and perception of the excellence of a school is regularly promoted by school newsletters, parent-teacher conferences, membership meetings, and the daily reports brought home by our students. Proper lines of communication are reinforced. Policy questions are directed to the board. Questions about student performance or behaviour or specific actions within the classroom are directed first to the teacher, then the principal, if required, and then (rarely) to the education committee and board.         

However, one negative report about what happens in your school can quickly lead to a temporary loss of trust and a bypassing of the defined lines of communication. But even in these cases, a strong our schools need high history of dealing with problems in a timely and appropriate manner will quickly restore confidence in the school. All schools, like families, will experience problems. It is an excellent school that effectively resolves problems within the context of its school vision, fairness, and policies.       


How is your school’s report card? Hopefully you can conclude that by both quantitative and qualitative measures, you have an excellent school. This excellence is possible because of the blessings of our Lord, the prayers and support of your community, and the dedication and efforts of your staff, board, and committees. We can celebrate this excellence in humility. We also need to be on guard for complacency, a taking for granted what we have. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!    

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