A Psychology Today article describes the results child psychologist Michael Rutter of the University of London got from studying 1,400 pupils in 12 secondary schools in London. The findings are significant and eye-opening, but on reflection, not the least bit surprising.
The study reveals that effective schools require neither special facilities nor harsh discipline, but purposeful concentration on simple techniques such as starting lessons promptly. Students learned and behaved best in schools where the teachers more often planned their lessons jointly and started teaching promptly when classes began without wasting an inordinate amount of time in the distribution of books and papers. They were also less casual about letting classes out early, put more emphasis on academic achievement, and gave more homework which they carefully checked. Students were given more use of the school library and encouraged more frequently, and their good work was up on the walls for display.
These pupils also felt free to consult the teachers about their personal problems. The students were given more responsibility and were required to take care of the materials they were issued. These good schools did not have a disproportionate number of super-star teachers, but the student bodies were sprinkled with children who had high ability and their example raised the performance and behavior of all children.
The most astonishing result was the difference in attainment and behavior between good schools and bad ones. Researchers had grade school records of many of the children and used them to make predictions of how well the children were likely to do in secondary schools. Compared with what might have been expected from the pupils' history, the least able students in the most effective school in the study scored as well on standardized tests as the most able students in the least effective schools. Yes, expectations and an orderly procedure, along with praise and recognition, make a difference. Take this approach and I'll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!