Reform committee identifies Great Expectations as common denominator of high-performing schools
As an elementary school teacher in the Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKC), Pat Watson-Hunt received her share of school-sanctioned professional development training. After a few years, Watson-Hunt eventually took a position at a different OKC school, and it was a school that had embraced Great Expectations for its teacher training.
The GE Difference
Watson-Hunt experienced her first Great Expectations Summer Institute in 1995, and was immediately impressed. The training provided her with some very detailed procedures for teaching, as well as the important reminder to show respect to her colleagues and students.
“I liked how the Institute focused on raising the expectations for my students, colleagues and myself,” says Watson-Hunt. “Respect is paramount, and without it, the classroom just won’t run as efficiently. Great Expectations reinforced that basic tenet, and offered great tips on how to implement and nurture it.”
Upon making respect a classroom priority, Watson-Hunt saw many classroom problems diminish. The negative attitudes and inappropriate behavior waned, resulting in fewer behavior referrals. As a group, they created class goals and focused on a whole-group approach, fostering communication and collaboration.
After 17 years in the classroom, Watson-Hunt assumed the role of executive director of elementary schools in the OKC district, where she oversees 55 elementary schools and approximately 43,000 students.
Looking to create consistency across the highly mobile district, DeAnn Davis, former director of elementary schools, and her colleagues created a reform committee comprised of principals and educators. The committee reviewed the programs in place at every single school to find what worked and what didn’t. After that exploratory process, the first element that every school was going to use was professional development training from Great Expectations. It was the common denominator.
“Our district is very diverse. Most students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and we see about a 48 percent transfer between schools,” says Watson-Hunt. “When looking to enact models of consistency, we saw that Great Expectations schools performed better than those whose teachers did not attend the training. Implementing Great Expectations district-wide was an easy decision.”
Watson-Hunt and her colleagues took teacher training seriously, communicating with the Great Expectations Board to create special training opportunities for newly hired OKC teachers—separate from the training opportunities from teachers already in the OKC system. Now, educators attend training sessions twice a year, made possible through federal funds specifically for professional development.
Seeing the Change
When Watson-Hunt first began her tenure as the associate director, there were only five Great Expectations Model Schools in the OKC district. To be named a Great Expectations Model School, 90-100 percent of staff needs to be implementing 100 percent of the identified classroom practices. As of 2013, there are 17 Model Schools.
The district also conducted research to evaluate the impact of Great Expectations on student achievement. Mean Reading API scores increased 17 percent when schools became Great Expectations Model Schools. Science scores went up nearly 10 percent. In addition, long-term suspensions at Model Schools gradually diminished until they were non-existent.
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve the district and make solid choices for students and educators,” says Watson-Hunt. “Great Expectations is a constant in the district. When reviewing programs and funding, Great Expectations is a must.”
About Great Expectations
Great Expectations is a school transformation model that emphasizes a climate of mutual respect and academic excellence. Founded in 1991, the non-profit foundation provides intensive professional training to teachers and administrators that promotes improved student self-esteem, attendance, discipline and parent participation – all of which result in improved student achievement. Great Expectations has a presence throughout Oklahoma and seven other states.