School culture begins with clearly defined values and is comprised of the academic and cultural practices, traditions, priorities, and branding derived from those values. Often confused with school climate, which can be loosely defined as the overall environment, or feel, of a school, school culture refers more specifically to the values and priorities of a school and how those manifest in the day to day actions and experiences of community members.
One way to achieve a strong school culture is to prioritize open and frequent communication between the school and key stakeholders. Conducting surveys throughout the year to gather data on school culture opens a dialogue between members of the community and provides an opportunity to find out what is currently working and what should be adjusted to improve the culture of a school.
Much research has been done regarding which questions provide meaningful data about school culture, and a quick web search can provide many models for a purposeful survey. Schools have the option of creating their own or working through a company specializing in survey data. Regardless of which method is chosen, surveys should be given multiple times a year, usually three times a year around early Fall, Winter, and Spring, and involve all school community members, including students, parents, faculty, and other staff.
For the survey to have meaning and purpose, all participants should be made aware of what was learned and what will change as a result of the survey. To this end, a clear communication plan should be developed by administration. After data is collected and analyzed, the admin team should reflect on the data and create a narrative that guides staff members, parents, and other community members through a celebration of successes, what needs to be improved, and a how the school team will go about making the improvements.
In a strong school culture, teachers, students, and other community members demonstrate a knowledge of and respect for the key values of the school and manifest those values in all aspects of daily life within the school, including academics, athletics, extracurricular activities, staff practices, and more.
Top attributes of a positive school culture include:
"Kickboard has made a huge difference. We reduced disciplines by 44% in just 18 weeks. If I go to another campus and come back to ours, I can see and hear the difference. It’s so positive here and that’s changing the culture of our school. This not only improves students’ behavior but it improves their academic performance as well."– Kasie Jackson, Assistant Principal - Dallas ISD
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