Characteristics of Successful Schools Chpt 1 - Overview

CHAPTER ONElogo graphic
What are the Characteristics of Successful Schools?




This section provides a description of the seven characteristics of a successful school. These characteristics describe the school environment, goals, and management. The ultimate measure of success is a learning community that helps all students, regardless of background or ability, to achieve high standards of scholarship and citizenship.

In this section, you will find for each characteristic:

  • a definition
  • a rationale for its importance
  • key ideas to remember
  • examples of the outcomes the characteristic can provide





A vision represents clearly articulated statements of goals, principles, and expectations for the entire learning community. A common unifying vision is achieved when the administration, teachers, support staff, students, families, and demographically representative community members are able to clearly communicate that vision through the daily operation of the school district. A vision becomes a guiding force when all educational decisions are based on its framework and goals.


A clear vision is like a good road map. Without a good map it is difficult to determine where you are going and, impossible to know when you arrive. A dynamic vision engages and represents the whole community and outlines a path to follow. The vision allows school leaders to create a compelling view that excites and engages other constituents to join in the educational journey.

Key Ideas

  1. Effective schools have a clearly defined vision for the improvement of learning for each and every student.
  2. Emphasis is on the achievement of a broadly defined set of standards that includes academic knowledge, skill, development, and standards of the heart.
  3. Goals are framed in a way that can be benchmarked through the school year and measured at year's end. Progress is recorded and used for improvement efforts.
  4. Communication about the goals as well as progress toward them is a regular part of school activities among all constituents.


Successful Schools Have a Vision That:

  1. is accompanied by other strategic planning. Strategic planning is a data-driven process that guides decision making, as well as program implementation components such as:
    • goal statements
    • means to accomplish the goals
    • timelines
  2. links education standards to teacher expectations and student performance
  3. fosters district wide expectations and experiences that result in all students mastering challenging standards at proficient or above levels
  4. engages the entire learning community to take responsibility for all students' learning
  5. includes carefully defined terms that are known and supported by all constituents
  6. is developed with representation from a wide variety of publics and demographic groups
  7. drives resource allocation in the learning as well as the broader community
  8. allows the societal, academic, and organizational components of education to operate in a seamless manner
  9. articulates the learning community's commitment to both excellence and equity in the organization
  10. embraces the dual mission of creating in each student solid and rigorous academic achievement and civic caring and responsibility




For questions about this information, contact the Title I and School Support Team at (608) 267-3721 or by email at




For questions about this information, contact Title I and School Support Team (608) 267-3721