Faced with a number of serious challenges, including low attendance rates, high rates of suspension and expulsion, and poor academic achievement, Garfield High School (GHS) parents, staff, and community members came together to turn the school into a safe and supportive learning environment for all students. Supportive leadership and community engagement were the key components of the school’s transformation.
Supportive leaders from the California Department of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and the GHS administration embraced transformational leadership, motivating teachers and other school personnel to develop leadership skills and a commitment to high-level achievement. Shared leadership of GHS extends beyond engaging teachers, as school personnel, parents, students, and community members have many opportunities to participate in shared decision-making regarding the school.
Teachers participated in professional learning communities to learn more about teaching and how to better engage students in the classroom. When given the skills to actively engage students, teachers can avoid occurrences of disruptive behavior. GHS also implemented a three-tiered system of instructional strategies to offer appropriate academic supports based on continual assessment of students’ needs.
To engage parents, the school’s Parent Center offers parents a range of resources on a daily basis. At the center, parents can seek help in addressing issues with their children, increase their understanding of the educational system, and take classes to increase their proficiency in English or develop their computer skills. Because the GHS student body is almost entirely Hispanic or Latino, the school provides translation services for all student council meetings and other meetings involving parents.
GSH also works closely with a number of community groups to offer a range of services and supports to students. Community partners include a nonprofit organization that offers drug counseling services, and the LAUSD School Police, who help to maintain a safe campus.
Through supportive leadership and community engagement, the school community successfully transformed GHS into a positive school climate with a strong level of student motivation, solid partnerships with families and community members, a safe and caring environment, and high expectations for learning and achievement.