Relationships Lead to Results


Northeast Middle School, Bethlehem Area School District, serves 835 students in grades 6 through 8. The student population is very diverse including over 50% who are Black or Hispanic. The school has many challenges including 61% poverty rate and 18.4% special education rate.

In 2004, the school did not make AYP in several categories including the IEP subgroup and received a Warning Status. the following year brought School Improvement I. The work of the administrators, teachers and students has paid off. This year the school is completely off school improvement...having Made Progress for two consecutive years.

In addition, Northeast MS made the IU 20 list of schools that have demonstrated the highest level of academic growth during the 2007-08 school year based on their PVAAS data three times..... 8th grade reading and math and 6th grade math.

I sat down with Assistant Principal, Leigh Rusnak, to learn the secret to their success and the answer might surprise you.... RELATIONSHIPS! The heart of their school improvement plan is developing relationships between teachers and students, teachers and administrators and teachers to teachers.

Their efforts to make a personal investment in every child have paid off. Where they see their strongest results, they have the strongest relationships with students and teachers. Mrs. Rusnak described their approach as kids before content. It is not unusual for secondary teachers to have a strong connection to theFloggingir content area, but it should not come before kids.

They strive to like all their find something of value in every child. To make the child feel important and supported. "When kids know their teacher likes them and will help them succeed, the kids will give back." Mrs. Rusnak went on to say that "students do well on the PSSA NOT because students are invested in their education, but because the teachers were invested in their students." They strive to create a safe, trusting environment.... an environment where students rise to the level of expectations!

In the same vane, administrators need to invest in their teachers. They need to know who their teachers ... really know them and help them along. It is critical to engage teachers in school and its programs. They word hard to build up the teachers by being positive and providing praise and recognition. Teachers need to trust that they will receive positive feedback from peers and administrators.

In times when flogging seems to be the norm, Northeast is striving to put people at the heart of their school. They have all the normal initiatives.... Reading Apprenticeship, co-teaching, raising the level of curriculum expectations, but they have found that relationships are the key to making it all work!


lsmith said…
I think that this blog post goes hand in hand with a posting several months ago related to student advisory committees. I really believe that when students become the stakeholders in their own education they rise to the challenge. As this post says it makes the students feel supported and like they have a voice in their school. Who better to know what strategies work in educating students than the students themselves?! It is great that Northeast Middle and many of our other schools have found a way to make their students feel supported rather than being another statistic in making AYP.
Amaal said…
Students will make great efforts for those they like, for those they respect and feel safe around. Bill Daggett refers to the 3 Rs "Rigor, Relevance and Relationships" as being a link to student success. It is the relationship amongst students but also staff that builds a community of learners. Students can tell when there is a culture in the school amongst teachers of collaboration and support. This culture sends the message to students that that all of the staff are working together for their success.
dbittner said…
Having the ability to build relationships is, I believe, at the core of all successful enterprises....whether in academia or the corporate world. People need to know they are valued and cared about. They need to know that they have a vital role in achieving results.....success is a team effort! The building of relationships bonds people to a common cause whether that cause is to make AYP or to achieve some corporate goal.

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