School Culture Check

August 2014, Volume 37, Issue 12

Research proves that shaping school culture—though it can seem hard to quantify—is one of the most important tools in a principal’s toolbox. That’s because it is an element that touches every aspect of students’ learning. As you start the school year, assess your school’s culture using these four focus areas recommended by the National School Climate Council:

1. SAFETY: There needs to be a clear set of rules concerning physical violence, verbal abuse, harassment, and teasing. Successfully communicating and enforcing these will create a sense of physical and social-emotional security.

2. RELATIONSHIPS: Relationships, between and among staff and students, should be supportive and caring. Respecting diversity and understanding individual differences are also key.

3. TEACHING AND LEARNING: Teaching should be supportive and include constructive feedback and individual attention. Social and civic learning should help students understand and regulate their emotions and promote ethical decision-making.

4. ENVIRONMENT: School surroundings should be clean, appealing, and provide resources to meet students’ needs.

In addition to these elements, consider the multiple perspectives—parents, students, staff, and community—that a school climate assessment could gather. This will help you determine the most useful assessment tool for your school. For example, you might want to use an online survey for parents and staff and a more informal approach for students.

Last, make sure that you develop a plan to use the collected data. This can be helpful in providing feedback to staff, planning events or professional development, and in developing a school improvement plan.

For more resources on school culture and climate, revisit the Principal magazine special issue on Positive School Culture. It includes articles on:

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