Background to High Reliability Schools (HRS)

A highly reliable school (HRS) encourages the success of all of its students’ learning and public examination performance through support, feedback and evaluation. The fundamental characteristics of HRS’s are a school-wide focus on a small number of goals, combined with a commitment to implement any reform with unusually high reliability. Specific reforms may be chosen by the faculty and administration either through an examination of prior research, or through analysis of "best practice."

In HRS schools, the efforts of its administration, teachers, and students focus on developing a limited number of core activities that have demonstrated consistent, high levels of student learning. The school also encourages support and commitment from parents and agencies for the goals of the school.

To attain these consistent high levels of success, the HRS school faculty includes in their core goals a commitment to high levels of student attendance and support and expectation for the academic success of all students. The inclusion of these two goals is based on repeated research findings that students learn best when consistently attending a school that expects the students’ best efforts academically. To support these goals, the HRS school works to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) and a system of monitoring these procedures to assure the school is reliably working to attain the goals. A system is also established to assess the effectiveness of the standard operating procedures and for identifying flaws in them and validating appropriate changes.

The underpinnings of this effort are a number of fundamental elements of the HRS school activities including the selection and retention of the best available teachers and administrators for their school. The recognition of the value of these individuals is supported through their constant training and retraining in the development and implementation of the essential goals of the school. The mutual monitoring of staff for the purpose of improving the staff’s effectiveness in meeting the schools goals supports this training.

To assure the HRS school is moving effectively and efficiently to improve student learning and student performance, the school uses data on student backgrounds, their previous school performance, their current attendance, test and class performance and attitudinal data to base curriculum decisions, instructional strategies and resource allocations to support their learning. In particular, early identification and intervention with pupils at risk of under performing or being excluding are reviewed. Comparisons of student performance across the curriculum to assure consistent levels of student success in all areas of the curriculum are included in the data analysis and decision making process.

The management structure of the HRS school leads and supports these changes and whilst continuing to use the hierarchical nature of school administration it permits, when appropriate, collegial decision making on issues that impact specific school or department activities. Management also assures that the school environment and the resources to support high quality instruction are maintained to the highest order. Responsibility for the upkeep of the school environment and materials is equally shared between staff and pupils.

The HRS programme provides schools with a detailed checklist of the elements that schools need to undertake to attain high reliability by re-examining their structures, behaviours and activities.