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School Environment Analysis

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School Environment Stacy Paris Grand Canyon University: EDU 575 September 10, 2014

School Environment School Environment Analysis

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The environment of a school is very complex. There are many elements to consider such as; student demographics, school climate, community environment, geographic location and political climate, and the instructional program. All of these are areas that deserve careful consideration as they influence the perceptions of a school and weather learning does or does not take place in that school. School leadership must use data to identify problem areas, develop possible solutions for these problems, analyze the feasibility and then apply these solutions. Adjustments must be made along the way to ensure that progress is continual. In the case of the target school, more careful consideration is needed in the areas of its instructional program, the school climate, and the political environment. In the following paragraphs, each element will be examined and possible solutions to problem areas will be identified.

Environmental and Contextual Factors

The target school is a free, public charter school in its fourth year. It consists of two campuses located roughly two miles apart. The primary campus houses one class of 3K (private pay), one class of 4K (private pay) and four classes of 5K students. The elementary campus is made up of four first grade classrooms, four second grade classrooms, four third grade classrooms, two fourth grade classrooms, and two fifth grade classrooms. There are four hundred eighty eight students in grades kindergarten through five. Forty seven percent of non-paying students are on free or reduced lunch. This percentage qualifies it as a Title 1 school. It is made

School Environment up of mainly Caucasian (44%), Afro-American (39%), Latino (24%), Mixed Race (8%) and Asian (5%) ethnicities. One student is Native American and eight are from an “unspecified”

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demographic. Parent occupations include homemakers, blue-collar and white-collar workers. The school has plans to grow a grade level each year up through grade eight. This would allow approximately fifty students, or two sections, to be added each year for the next two years to meet the charter’s cap of six hundred students. Since the target school is in its youth and experiencing an influx of students, there are many growing pains. Currently, both of the campus locations are filled to capacity. This is a stressor in the school climate. Everyone shares their space with someone else. The principal, vice principal, human resource director, bookkeeper, and nurse and guidance counselor are the only people who do not share due to needs for privacy. All other office space has at least two people. Classrooms are used during planning periods for speech services, gifted and talented services, Response to Intervention services, team meetings and parent teacher conferences. The special education provider puts her things on cart and uses a little used space on the indoor walking track for her classroom. Upstairs rooms are used for the afterschool programs as well. Almost every space’s use has changed designation this year. All of this provides little security and very little time to plan in the classroom environment, even after school. Conversely, this forced sharing of space is fostering a new sense of collaboration. Collie (p 1194) suggests that teacher’s sense of stress is related to job satisfaction and efficacy. Therefore, the crowded conditions need to be addressed. A possible solution, should funding become available, would be to add a portable behind the school for either offices or special services. The community of the target school is diverse since it is open to any student in the state. The geographical location is in the center of the state. Its closest neighbors are a church, some

School Environment small businesses and an established housing community made up mostly of working black family units. While a school bus picks up a group of students who attend another public school, many students travel distances of twenty miles or more, one way, to attend the target school. A sense of community has been built using means other than proximity. Some have formed

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relationships through carpools. The target school is based on the partial immersion/dual language model. Therefore, there is a common interest of the second language (Mandarin) and the benefits of its study. There are clusters of parents who have professional relationships through their jobs as professors, lawyers and doctors. They have multiple conversations about the school, its functions, and the political climate at the target school. Many of the parents have invested time, money and energy into the building and maintaining of the physical and figurative school. They serve on the board of directors, provide materials for projects, volunteer in various aspects, donate money, goods and services, and serve on many levels through committees and special interest projects. Meadows (p3.) suggests that fostering parent involvement builds a stronger school by allowing both parents and teachers a chance to evaluate what goes on in the classroom. This generates mutual trust and respect. This collaboration of parents and teachers is met with varying degrees of enthusiasm and understanding. A possible solution for this is through professional development on the topic of collaboration. When teachers understand the importance and value of collaboration with each other, then the transition to teacher and parent collaboration is more natural. The instructional programs at the target school are not the same as in a traditional school. This is one of the reasons that parents select this school. The school has earned an A on its federal accountability rating. Classes are relatively small with no more than twenty four students. The school has experienced above average results on state mandated norm-referenced

School Environment standardized testing. There are some challenges as well. The Chinese speaking teachers at the target school are by-in- large highly educated, but in areas other than education. Some of them have not even had a single education course. While they are generally excellently versed on the

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content area materials, they struggle with classroom management techniques. Some of this is due to lack of formal training, and some of it is due to a cultural divide. Walker (p16) explains that teachers have a difficult time balancing the teaching of content material and second language while maintaining the native language skills. Chinese teachers are also not accustomed to the culture of an American school. Many of them have never experienced a classroom where students do not fear disappointing the instructor. They have no concept of how to deal with difficult students. This can make a somewhat chaotic learning environment that requires almost constant intervention from school leadership. There are several possible solutions to this problem. One approach taken by school leadership this year has been a daily teaching tip on classroom management. During every faculty meeting, training is given on a specific area of classroom management. Handouts are made so teachers can refer back to them as the need arises. Some other solutions might be having veteran teachers foster a mentor type relationship with new or Chinese speaking teachers. Another would be setting up some classroom observations so they could learn better classroom management techniques. Conclusion The target school is a complex and diverse entity. This learning community is influenced through its demographic makeup, community surroundings, school climate, political climate and instructional practices. Each of these areas must be examined carefully. Creative and innovative solutions must be analyzed and put into action to keep this diverse learning culture alive.

School Environment Students, parents, teachers, administrators and other community leaders all have an important role to execute in this process.

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School Environment References Collie, R. S. (2012). School climate an social-emotional learning:Preicting teacher stress, job sastisfaction and job efficay. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1189-1204. Meadows, B. (1993). Through the eyes of parents. Educational Leadership, 31-34. Walker, C. &. (2000). The complexity of Immersion Education: Teachers Address the Issues. Modern Language Journal, 5-27.

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