The ‘Halls That Inspire’ School Beautification Project

The Halls That Inspire School Beautification Project is a collaborative partnership between Dr. William H. Horton School and Halls That Inspire Inc. The project is funded through The Newark Trust For Education.

The Newark Trust for Education

Halls That Inspire


Project Description

Dr. William Horton School of Arts and Technology is a renew school under the leadership of a new administrative team this 2017-18 school year.  All key administrators in the building and 50%, of the teaching are new to the building. Due to this fact, we have limited information about prior efforts to address SEL and/or trauma-informed care for the children in the building. The most recent data provided through the department of education shows that our school services 74.7% of students who identify as hispanic, 24% who identify as black, .5% who identify as white, .3% who identify as asian, and .1% who identify as american Indian. The gender breakdown is 50% female and 50% male. 10% have a physical disability, 18% have Individual Education Programs, and 87% are classified as economically disadvantaged.


Description of Current Problem

Upon receiving data on the 2016-2017 school year we discovered that  absenteeism was  a notable problem during the 2016-2017 school year. 54.35% of students were marked as frequently absent, chronically absent, or severely chronically absent. Although we do not have exact data, Dr. William Horton school is one of a cluster of schools that has historically had more discipline referrals than other schools in the district. It is our belief that both discipline referrals and absenteeism are directly related to the culture and climate fostered within the school walls. It is widely known that school culture has a direct impact on student emotional distress and ultimately student academic performance.

The need to focus on school culture and climate was also demonstrated by reviewing data specific to the teaching staff.  29% of the returning teachers received a rating of partially effective or lower on their yearly teacher evaluations in the classroom culture domain when evaluated using the district wide framework for teacher effectiveness. Furthermore, 25 new teachers and 5 new administrators were hired after a large turnover in the 2016-2017 school year. These teachers may or may not have received previous support in how to build a positive culture and climate. The high percentage of returning teachers who struggled in this domain and the high percentage of teachers who are new to the building pose an even more urgent need to address the social emotional, behavioral, and mental health concerns that are associated with schools that have lacked consistent student support.


Description of Need

Based on our data collected during the 2016-2017 school year, the administrative team at Dr. William Horton School has identified a need to improve the social-emotional needs of our students by focusing on school culture and climate.

Staff at Dr. William Horton School feel that focusing on building a positive culture and climate is absolutely essential in turning around the current trajectory for the students in our care. We aim to promote a learning environment that our students and families feel and successful in. Our emphasis on the importance of climate has been reinforced by a meta- analysis study performed by Wang et al. (1997) which found that school culture and climate were among the top influences in effecting improved student achievement (Wang).


Project Description

Efficient and Effective Response to Identified Issues

In response to the needs identified above, we will be partnering with a local non-profit called ‘Halls That Inspire’. Students and staff will collaborate to develop core values and rebrand the school.  Once accomplished, the professionals from “Halls That Inspire” will design hallway murals that represent the core values and brand in an artistic and symbolic way. These murals will serve as a daily reminder of what our school is working to achieve while transforming the currently dilapidated walls that our children walk through into symbols of hope, creativity, and most importantly, ownership over their own school environment.


Project Rationale

This innovative approach to improving school culture is not only fun and engaging but also grounded in research and best practices. According to Wang, Holcombe “students’ perceptions of school environment influenced their academic achievement directly and indirectly through the three types of school engagement. Specifically, students’ perceptions of school characteristics in seventh grade influenced their school participation, identification with school, and use of self-regulation strategies in eighth grade that occur therein and, in turn, influenced students’ academic achievement in eighth grade” (Wang, Holcombe).

Our students’ perceptions of the school will be immediately influenced as they see the walls transform from the bleak environment to one that immediately welcomes them and is focused on positivity and learning. School participation will increase because the school will have one central project that everyone can rally around and build community through. Because the designs will be developed with our students, their identification as a member of our school community will improve and increase.  Finally, the use of self-regulation strategies will be easily implemented as students become invested in the project and work to earn opportunities to support and work with the staff provided by ‘Halls That Inspire’.

This initiative will culminate in a large-scale family event called ‘Family Paint Night’. This event will provide our school community the opportunity to foster a safe, supported, and effective learning environment. The staff/family connection cultivated during this event will better inform our teachers on how to focus on the “whole child”.


Information About Our External and Internal Program Providers

‘Halls that Inspire’ is a service-based non-profit organization that focuses on providing assistance & guidance in the incorporation of a beautification & mentoring program within the school environment. They work to motivate a sense of responsibility and to provide an understanding and highlight the importance of giving back to the school community through high impact, colorful, reinforced positive messages, graphics and slogans. Internally, all Dr. William Horton staff will participate in and support the yearlong initiative to transform the school climate and culture. Teachers will be tasked with identifying students who demonstrate an interest in the project, students who have the leadership skills necessary to spearhead and develop new ideas for the project, and students in need of the one-on-one adult mentoring that is provided by staff from ‘Halls That Inspire’. Teaching staff will also oversee after-school service clubs to support the completion of the project as well as attend the school-wide Family Paint Night.  The Family Paint Night is an event in which the community will be invited into the school to participate in the project after hours.