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Getting creative to close school resource gaps

It’s a puzzle every district has to solve: How to make the most of scarce resources?

Faced with anemic budgets and decreasing enrollments, most school leaders have no choice but to do more with less.

That phrasing might sound a little tired. But that doesn’t make it impossible, writes Rutgers Psychology Professor Maurice J. Elias in Edutopia. “Under-resourced schools face many challenges that are difficult. However, I believe that they can be conquered with sufficient time, dedication, and resources. Above all, success with these challenges stems from a belief in the potential of students and staff to achieve victory despite the odds.”

Turnarounds aren’t easy, Elias admits. Getting under-resourced schools trending in the right direction requires a sustained commitment, both on the part of educators and the broader community.

In the article, Elias offers seven ideas to get beyond persistent resources gaps.

Here are just a few:

Take a phased approach
School turnarounds don’t happen overnight. District leaders first must identify the goals they want to achieve, such as transforming school culture or improving school discipline. Then develop a phased plan for accomplishing those goals. There are no shortcuts, says Elias. Slow and steady wins the race. When resources are in short supply, it’s important to plot your path to success one step at a time.

Build an effective team
The most successful school districts benefit from a tight-knit leadership team that works together to identify resource gaps and thinks creatively about how best to tackle them. Make sure your team has time to learn and grow together before launching major reforms.

Develop a strong brand
We talk often about the importance of developing a strong school brand. Elias agrees. “Students and staff want to go to a school that stands for something,” he writes. A strong identity fosters enthusiasm throughout the community and creates buy-in for critical improvements. Is your school or district committed to college or career preparation? Is the goal to help students build a better tomorrow? Identify your mission and embrace it, writes Elias. And parents and students will follow suit.

Give students a meaningful role
For many under-resourced schools, student disengagement and a fear of failure often contribute to low performance. Students bring an important voice to the table—one that you need to listen to. Ask for feedback from students and actively include their perspectives and opinions in your turnaround efforts. Give students ownership of their own success.

Want more ideas for closing resources gaps in your schools? Check out Elias’ full list in Edutopia.

How does your district make the most of limited resources? Tell us in the comments.

Looking for a way to include teachers, parents, and students in your school turnaround efforts? Start by creating a safe place to provide honest feedback about your decisions.