Press Release

Helping Journalists and Communications Professionals Understand the Elements of Successful Schools

Educators know what works in successful public schools. For the first time, a dozen major education organizations have pulled together their best practices and research to state these elements and help policymakers, school leaders, and the public understand why some schools succeed and how they do it.

The Learning First Alliance (LFA) has released The Elements of Success: 10 Million Speak on Schools That Work, a compendium of resources from organizations representing 10 million educators, parents and policymakers. The document is designed to help the public recognize strong, thriving public schools and better understand what is needed for successful schools.

The first-of-a-kind report brings together the best knowledge and research from LFA’s 12 members, which are the nation’s major education associations. These organizations undertook this project because they saw the need for a comprehensive document to bring together information from a wide array of perspectives, including teachers, school and district administrators, school counselors, school boards, school technology experts, and others.

LFA believes that our country needs a strong public school system that prepares all students for higher education, careers, and success in life. In 2018, more than nine out of 10 students attend public schools—more than 50 million nationwide—and a high-quality public education system is key to our country’s future economic success and security.

This compendium could be used to inform reporting on public schools, including charter schools, and help journalists understand what happens inside and outside the school walls. The report is designed also to help policymakers, school leaders, and the public understand why some schools succeed and how they do it. Schools do not operate in isolation—in many communities, the public school is the center of the community—and they cannot thrive without support from their communities.

How to Identify a Successful School

Successful schools are fulfilling what many consider the purpose of education: developing young people’s knowledge, skills, and attitudes so that they graduate from high school ready for college, career, and citizenship. The compendium identifies six elements common to all successful schools, including:

  • Focus on the Total Child: Supporting each child’s needs, inside and outside the classroom, to help them become an effective, empowered learner.
  • Commitment to Equity and Access: Ensuring the needs of all student populations are met.
  • Family and Community Engagement: Effectively engaging families and communities in support of students.
  • Distributed Leadership: Defining leadership broadly and sharing decision making.
  • Strong, Supported Teaching Force and Staff: Staffing schools with educators who are well-educated, well-prepared, and well-supported, and providing continuous learning opportunities to them.
  • Relationship-Oriented School Climate: Creating a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility among staff and students and with families and communities. These schools are safe, welcoming, and respectful to all.

“We see public schools that are working well, where educators, parents, and local communities have developed programs to meet their specific goals and challenges,” said LFA chair JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “The Learning First Alliance wants to share this knowledge so that educators, policymakers and parents can understand what it takes to build a successful school.”

LFA Executive Director Richard M. Long emphasized that the elements are not interchangeable nor “pick as you please.”

“These elements are like the atoms that make up a molecule,” Long said. “However, we recognize the distinct differences between each school and each community, and schools implement and integrate these elements in vastly different ways depending on context and their individual needs.”

As a continuation of the project, LFA will host a series of in-depth discussions in 2018 to further examine these critical elements with the communities that are impacting local education decision making to align not only the goals but the processes of improving outcomes. LFA also has been working with partners from the business community for the past year to identify common interests and has facilitated conversations and projects among the participants.

The compendium and supporting materials can be downloaded at

These materials include two-page briefs explaining each of the six elements of successful schools:
Brief: Focus on the Total Child
Brief: Commitment to Equity and Access
Brief: Family and Community Engagement
Brief: Distributed Leadership
Brief: Strong, Supported Teaching Force and Staff
Brief: Relationship-Oriented School Climate

About the Learning First Alliance

The Learning First Alliance is a partnership of leading education organizations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools. Alliance members include: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; AASA, The School Superintendents Association; American Federation of Teachers; American School Counselor Association; Consortium for School Networking; Learning Forward; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Education Association; National PTA; National School Boards Association; and National School Public Relations Association.

To learn more about LFA, visit

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