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 their content area, but it should not come before kids.
They strive to like all their students....to 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.