Student success is a simple reason to invest in classified staff development

A focus on outcomes and building improvement goals drives overall student achievement, and classified staff members are a big part of that
By: | Issue: February, 2018 | Thought Leadership
February 20, 2018

Student success starts at the building level. Can you talk about the influence of the building culture as an “experience” generated by teachers and other certified staff?

When you build culture and experience, you must also consider creating a positive organizational climate. From a student’s perspective, successful schools have a defined culture based on a healthy and positive organizational climate. Gallup conducts an annual student poll, not just focusing on academic success, but instead on the holistic environment of a school. This experience, based on a positive organizational climate, nurtures student engagement, usually brought by embracing the principle of a learner-centric environment—an experience where self-directed learning occurs. There’s an overall environment that looks beyond achievement metrics to ensure learning is collaborative and recognizes education as flexible. It takes place anytime, anywhere. This idea presupposes that coaching and 1-to-1 time increases. It nurtures commitment from every individual in the building culture.

Describe the importance of training and development for classified staff to adequately support students and drive measurable success at the building level.

If the goal is to create a culture by which every student can excel, we recognize that environment extends beyond certified staff. Classified employees can account for 40 percent of staff in buildings—including paraeducators, administrative assistants, food service, custodians, IT, accounting and classified instructional support staff. Classified instructional support staff, which encompasses everything from 1-to-1 help to bilingual early childhood instructors and home-based instructors, all working in their instructional capacity, are often required to have professional development hours. One overlooked example for classified staff is the IT support staff in buildings.

They hold a vast set of impactful responsibilities such as lowering the risk for security vulnerabilities, ensuring that technology is always available and boosting availability of teachers to create productive learning environments. Building cleanliness and safety are critical to a sense of belonging as is the approachability of adults. If we recognize that these individuals have that kind of impact, we should ensure that they receive training and development that focus on student outcomes and building improvement goals, which are paramount to the overall success of the school.

How does initiating schoolwide classified staff training and development tie in with building-improvement plan metrics, like discipline, or traditional educational rubrics?

Building improvement plans focus on academic achievement and outcomes, as they should. Many schools also include environmental measures such as lower rates of violence, suspension or disciplinary events, and increased student and faculty attendance, parent engagement satisfaction measures and higher retention overall for competent staff. We recognize that keeping a qualified team is a component of building improvements. Professional development is a crucial indicator of retention. There is an entire body of research focused on adult learners in their job roles. The central issue for them is to be on the same page as their team, have a sense of purpose and enhance their professional development. Developing classified staff is vital for job satisfaction and retention of those competent individuals. Continual professional development that also shows how they contribute to student success goes a long way toward achieving building goals.

For more information, visit