What makes a school great?

By Ellie Baez on April 11, 2017

great schools

Time and time again, great schools have more similarities than differences. During the latest Discover Great Schools tour, participants learned that this is the case with Purpose Preparatory Academy Charter School and Cockrill Elementary School.

So, what are some of the similarities between these two great Nashville schools? Read on.

Three similarities between Purpose Preparatory Academy Charter School and Cockrill Elementary School:

1. Both schools have exceptional school leaders who are fired up to serve Nashville students.

During the school tours and the lunch question and answer session, school leaders, Lagra Newman (Purpose Prep) and Susan Cochrane (Cockrill) showed the effect that an exceptional school leader can have on a school and all of the people and students that inhabit it each day.

Ms. Newman has a can do and will do attitude. During her opening presentation, Ms. Newman stated, “Purpose Prep was founded on the belief that no matter where students were brought up or live, they can achieve great things in the right environment.” Throughout Purpose Prep this belief is alive and well. Together teachers and students are working hard to achieve their dreams.

Ms. Cochrane is an honest and firm leader. More than once, she acknowledged the many challenges face by her students, including the fact that many start school severely underdeveloped in areas such as literacy. But she consistently returned to her personal philosophy that she instills in those around her: “They [students] are our children, and we will love them and teach them.” She doesn’t allow any challenges to get in the way of setting high expectations for everyone- from the teachers to the students.

2. Both schools are open and clear with potential new staff members that working at their schools means going above and beyond for students.

Both Purpose Prep and Cockrill have extended school days, which gives students more time to get caught up in an area or to master new skills, and both leaders recognize that the longer days put extra pressure on school staff. Ms. Newman and Ms. Cochrane both talked about their hiring processes, where they emphasize the joys of teaching at their schools but also focus on the significant time commitments and high-expectations for teachers.

With that being said, both schools also find ways to show their appreciation for the hard work teachers do everyday.

At Purpose Prep, school lets out a little earlier on Fridays. These free afternoons are sometimes dedicated to teacher professional development and sometimes are declared “Self-Care Fridays” during which teachers can decide what they need to do to take care of themselves – even if that means just spending the afternoon at home.

At Cockrill, Ms. Cochrane works hard to give her teachers a voice. She has an “open door policy” and tries to use teacher ideas in developing new professional development. She also makes sure to recognize her teachers and let them know that they are appreciated.

3. Both schools implement innovative teaching practices.

The classrooms at Purpose Prep are buzzing with action. Each classroom has two teachers who work side-by-side throughout the day. During the literacy block, it is common to see students split up into three groups, two small groups working each working with a teacher and one group of students working independently.

At Cockrill, there are project-based learning classrooms sprinkled throughout the building. These classrooms have desks, chairs and other furniture that can be moved up, down and around. This allows teachers to change the room around to allow for more creativity and problem-solving. Also, all students participate in a project-based learning project once a quarter. These projects allow students to combine their skills in math, science, reading/writing and much more.

We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Purpose Preparatory Academy Charter School and Cockrill Elementary School for opening your doors to the community. We look forward to telling others about the great things happening at your schools!