Why We Chose Forest Lake

A checklist of essential qualities for schools and school districts profiled in Edutopia's Schools That Work.

A checklist of essential qualities for schools and school districts profiled in Edutopia's Schools That Work.

Our Schools That Work series explores what goes on at some of the most innovative, successful schools around the country. These range from schools with long-standing records of high performance to turnaround schools now on the road to substantially higher achievement. We visit each school to take a close-up look at its best practices and the specific challenges it faces, then we assemble a package of stories and hands-on tools that you can use to replicate some of the school's successes.

Even before we choose a school, we give it a hard look to make sure it delivers the kind of creative, effective, replicable practices that Edutopia can stand behind. Here's a quick look at the standards and the strengths we saw in Columbia, South Carolina, at Forest Lake Elementary School.

Minimal Moderate Strong
Cohesive school culture with high expectations x
Focus on 21st-century skills and themes x
Use of project learning and integrated studies x
Availability and meaningful use of technology x
High student achievement and engagement x
High or improving scores on standard measures x
Use of authentic assessment with real-world application x
Emphasis on inquiry and student-directed learning rather than only teacher-directed learning x
Collaborative planning among teachers x
Personalized instruction and regular use of assessment to shape teaching and learning x
Culture of trust fostered between staff and students x
Teachers given input and leadership in shaping school improvement x
Relevant, ongoing professional development tailored to individual teacher's needs x
Meaningful involvement of parents and community members x
Track record of sustained success for at least two years x
Eagerness among staff to share best practices and help other schools replicate their success x

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This article originally published on 4/26/2010

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Senior producer at Edutopia


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Hi Principal Farlow. It's a really interesting point you raise -- schools using this checklist to gauge their progress. I wish I could give you a more helpful answer, but our evaluation is not strictly quantitative. We consider all the factors on the checklist and rate each school based on our own years of experience traveling around the country visiting schools and reporting on their innovations. If you're interested in particular items on the checklist, let me know and I can try to point you to some schools that exemplify them.


STW Standard/Domain Evaluation Checklist

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I'm intrigued by the Quality/Success signatures that Edutopia focuses on in order to quantify a school as one that "works". It would be of great help to us Educators if Edutopia could break down each domain into constituent action items which, if executed, would fulfill a "strong" makeup of the domain.

It would, however, be of incredible value and use if Edutopia could post the evaluation tool or checklist that they use in quantifying each domain as minimal/moderate/strong. As a school Prinicpal I would like to know how myself and our school, classrooms, and staff measure for each standard/domain. In order to do that I would need tangible, quantifiable and measurable benchmarks for each domain.

Amazing site Mr.Lucas!

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