Quality matters

By Yvonne Watterson

What do we look for in a quality school? Test scores? Funding? Class size? The principal’s resume?  Do we know why some schools do a better job than others in helping students learn? At a time when Arizona is facing challenges that include improving literacy, the high school graduation rate, the recruitment and retention of effective teachers and leaders, and ensuring equitable funding for its schools, these are critical questions.

As parents, educators, community members, and business leaders, we want to feel confident that Arizona’s children will emerge from our schools ready for the demands of college or the work-place. We should demand nothing less. In order to achieve it, however, we must share a common understanding of what quality looks like.

At the Center for Student Achievement, which is a division of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, we know that quality schools are safe and inspiring places where students are prepared with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to thrive in an increasingly global, 21st Century world.

We know that quality schools boast excellent, ethical leadership and make instructional decisions based on data most pertinent to individual students. Most importantly, we know that whether a school is private or public, district or charter, Montessori or back-to-basics, it can and should aspire to basic standards of quality.

Combining research-based best practices with the professional knowledge and expertise of successful educators from all across Arizona, we have created a set of guidelines that describe the conditions that contribute to quality schools regardless of size, location, philosophy or educational model:

  • Academic and Continuous Improvement
  • Effective and ethical leadership
  • Culture, community, and relationship building
  • School Operations
  • Governance
  • Finance

This collective product, initially funded by a grant from the United Stated Department of Education, is now available online as a resource for school leaders and teachers, governing board members, parents and community members. We have also created a user-friendly workbook to guide schools through a needs assessment that will help them determine appropriate steps for improvement. Each Quality Standard includes a set of indicators, along with a set of guiding questions and examples of evidence that helps determine if a school has attained quality.

We are pleased to offer our Quality Standards as a benchmark and road map to help all stakeholders define quality for their schools and for Arizona public education.

How Quality Schools Improve Learning

Quality Standards Evaluation Tool

Access the Standards

As the Director of Education Innovation for the Arizona Charter Schools Association and Center for Student Achievement, Yvonne is driven by a vision of equity, access, and excellent educational opportunity for every one of Arizona’s students. Her professional journey began in Northern Ireland, where she cut her pedagogical teeth as an English teacher in Belfast. Since immigrating to the United States, Yvonne has enjoyed a successful career in public education, serving as a teacher and administrator in both district and charter schools.