Characteristics of Effective School Teams

Since the inception of our project in 2003, we have learned a lot about what makes an effective school team and the general progression that teams go through as they create changes to reduce student stress and increase health and engagement at their school sites. While the change process varies from school to school based on the unique circumstances and needs of each, we share below some characteristics of effective Challenge Success teams and the stages most teams go through as they create change.

An effective Challenge Success school team:

  • Has a clear leader or champion and a stable core team that may include the principal, assistant principal, one or more teachers, one or more parents, two or more students, and one counselor or psychologist.
  • Attends the Challenge Success fall conference and spring follow-up conference, and meets at least twice with the team coach between the fall and spring conferences.
  • Regularly gathers information from and disseminates information to the school community about student health, engagement, and integrity, and encourages cross-stakeholder dialogue about this information.
  • Develops an action plan that reflects a vision for change and that contains a clear but flexible schedule for moving forward.
  • Holds meetings at least quarterly to review and push forward the action plan.
  • Involves all stakeholders at each stage of the change process.
  • Pilots discrete, incremental changes rather than trying to do too much all at once. Changes are based on the school community’s needs and are known from research to improve engagement, health and/or academic integrity.
  • Evaluates results of incremental changes before deciding to institutionalize reforms.

Typical stages in the Challenge Success change process:

  1. Evaluate current practices, including symptoms and root causes of the problems you are addressing.
  2. Draw on research-based tools and strategies known to support the developmental and educational needs of youth.
  3. Create a vision for change.
  4. Develop and revisit your action plan.
  5. Gather and disseminate information about student health, engagement, and integrity at your school to get buy-in and institutional support for your plan.
  6. Investigate and pilot alternative policies and practices.
  7. Measure results and decide whether to institutionalize the changes.

View our SPACE framework for sample policies and practices.