“Smart is not something you are, it’s something you become through hard work. That’s what we’re trying to instill in kids,” Superintendent Joshua Starr said at a Board of Education meeting May 24.
That night he announced that Principal Michael Fernandes had been appointed to an advisory council with the national Efficacy Institute for his efforts in promoting this work ethic in students.
Efficacy, says Fernandes, is a belief that students can achieve success through hard work and has been a major component in the Middle School Transformation process in the district. He is one of eight principals nationwide that have been invited to the advisory council to share best practices and effective strategies.
Members of the Efficacy Institute, a national nonprofit organization for education reform, have been coaching teachers at ' middle schools for the last two years on efficacy strategies and how to instill this in students. Efficacy coaches work with teachers to help students during their advisory periods, which a key component of the efficacy curriculum.
“Efficacy models help motivate kids," Fernandes said. "Motivating kids can be a struggle. There are some kids that come to school and work hard to get good grades, but there’s a large percentage that doesn’t. If you get kids to believe that their work is under their control, then that is a very powerful message to them. You need to empower kids that if they work hard they will do well.”
In addition to advisory periods, efficacy is promoted throughout Turn of River with positive banners on display and awards ceremonies that encourage hard work from students. With training received from the Efficacy Institute, teachers ask students to become more reflective in their work and keep journals. These journals allow students to see what they did to earn the grade they received and what they could do better next time.
Ultimately, the goal is to increase student achievement. In just these few short years, however, Fernandes says he has seen anecdotal evidence that students are getting the message.
“We’ve heard students themselves talking about putting forth ‘effective effort,’” said Fernandes. “One of the core chapters in the efficacy book is learning about everyone’s strong and weak sides. Our strong sides make good decisions and our weak sides allow our anger to take over and make bad decisions. If a student gets in trouble for bad behavior I’ve heard other students say, ‘Well, you didn’t use your strong side.’”
Fernandes has met with Barbara Logan, CFO of the Efficacy Institute, and will attend his first meeting in August.