A Model for Educational Excellence


Educators, educational policymakers and communities have grappled with the concept of educational excellence for decades.  In general, approaches to the question of educational excellence have tended to focus on one aspect of the array of factors influencing educational product or output.  For example, some approaches have concentrated on pedagogy, that is, what kind of pedagogical or teaching style or methodology best leads to high performance by students.  Other approaches have focused on institutional or management structures that lead to good outcomes.  Without cataloguing all the approaches, suffice it to say that while each approach has merits, each suffers from one critical shortcoming: in isolation, each approach has little chance of success, if certain other ingredients outside the scope of the specific approach are not present.  In short, systemic educational excellence can result only from a systems approach to reform.  Put another way, educational reform must function in terms of correcting ‘fragmentation’ as a problem solving approach.  This short paper presents the outlines of a model for educational systems excellence.  Though based in theory the model is constructed from programs and projects tested in contemporary settings, thus, it is empirically based.   In addition, the model, in being reflective of contemporary scholarship and practice, has the advantage of being part of a movement for educational reform.

This paper summarizes the responses to a community workshop responding to the question of what are the necessary components of a good or excellent education.  The responses can be categorized in terms of the philosophical approach, the characteristics of the learning environment (pedagogical or physical), the content and methodology, the organizational structure.


The enterprise is child centered

This means that the transference of knowledge is seen as centripetal, rather than centrifugal.  It means that education validates the child’s experience by incorporating that experience into rigorous academic content, because it emanates from a clear idea of the child’s reality.  Other features reflecting this philosophical approach include:

  • it accommodates and nurtures both the challenged and the gifted, because its mission is to uncover the giftedness in all students, regardless of apparent learning ability
  • it assumes accountability for children with special needs
  • its goal is to produce self actualized children, who ultimately take responsibility for their own lives
  • it practices individuation – using a team approach – while upholding values of fairness, justice, compassion, respect and aggressive promotion of equal opportunity



The learning environment is safe, accessible and nurturing

  • The emphasis is on developing emotionally intelligent participants in the enterprise (students and teachers).  Therefore it is necessary to focus on total human development
  • Teachers are qualified, dedicated, caring, competent and emotionally healthy
  • Limited class size and healthy physical environment
  • Access to materials, resources and technology that stimulate creativity, innovation and accomplishment



Educational content and methodology are designed to develop critical and analytical skills, as well as values and emotional health

  • Curriculum is multi cultural and designed to bring about self-discovery and self awareness
  • Curriculum focuses on truth
  • It is relevant, experiential based, and equips participants to be healthy 21st Century citizens
  • It is value oriented, rather than utilitarian
  • It involves ‘teaching with the brain in mind’, it makes learning fun and seeks to develop a hunger and thirst for life long learning in students



Education is the responsibility of the entire community and the schools are the center of the community’s network or asset base

  • The locus of power and control for schools shifts to the neighborhood and is wrestled from school systems and school boards
  • Learning is community connected, is intergenerational, and everyone in the community contributes their gifts and talents to the enterprise
  • Learning becomes a life long enterprise for all people in the neighborhoods
  • The gap between academics and non – academics is narrowed and academic and intellectual pursuits are promoted as ways of serving community schools, thus, all learning becomes service learning
  • Education as a community asset engenders pride in community and neighborhood

© 2003, Community United to Reform Education, New Orleans, Louisiana

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