School Culture: It Matters!

In today’s world of constant accountability and transparency, a measure of school success might equate to AYP status, test scores, student attendance/behavior reports, and graduation rate. These numbers are only a small part of the entire picture. A school is so much more than a number.

The culture that happens in a school is a very powerful structure. One definition of school culture submitted by Phillips (1993) states that it is the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which characterize a school. Culture influences everything that happens within a school!

When adults in the school community are preoccupied with adult issues, student learning will always suffer. Without a culture that supports and recognizes the importance of learning goals, change and continuous improvement will not happen. On the flip-side, healthy and sound school cultures correlate dramatically with increased student achievement, motivation AND teacher productivity and satisfaction.

One of my PLN partners currently works in a culturally toxic high school. Frustrated faculty come to staff meetings ready to attack any new ideas, criticize those teachers that are making a difference with students and make fun of any staff that are willing to volunteer to attend a conference or workshop. Negative staff have effectively “frozen” this school in time, impairing any attempts at collegial improvement.

Other symptoms of a negative of toxic culture include:

  • lacking a clear sense of purpose.
  • blaming students for a lack of progress.
  • discouraging collaboration.
  • active hostile relations among staff.
  • celebrate successes.
  • emphasize accomplishment, collaboration and continuous improvement.
  • foster a commitment to staff and student learning.
  • cultivate a sense of personal responsibility for student learning and success.
  • prioritize professional development.
  • create time for staff reflection and sharing of professional practice.
Which of the above describes your school culture?

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