Fixing the Hole in School Reform: Creating School Cultures that Promote Academic Excellence

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I. Understanding School Culture. Defined: Beliefs, attitudes, norms, expectations and assumptions that guide actionsEthos - the character, customs, habits that distinguish a school/communitySarason's axiom: If you attempt to implement reforms but fail to change the culture of a school, nothing wil

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Fixing the Hole in School Reform: Creating School Cultures that Promote Academic Excellence

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1. Fixing the Hole in School Reform: Creating School Cultures that Promote Academic Excellence Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D. New York University

2. I. Understanding School Culture Defined: Beliefs, attitudes, norms, expectations and assumptions that guide actions Ethos - the character, customs, habits that distinguish a school/community Sarason’s axiom: If you attempt to implement reforms but fail to change the culture of a school, nothing will change School reform typically ignores school culture School culture is what distinguishes the best schools from other schools

3. Signs of an Unhealthy School Culture: Staff take no responsibility for student achievement Blame students and parents for low performance View teaching and learning disconnected No coherent strategy for delivering instruction School is racially stratified and failure and under achievement is rationalized Staff unwilling to collaborate, deep resistance to change Relations with parents are weak or strained Little or no involvement from parents of low performing students. School rules and procedures are at odds with educational goals Discipline is punitive and not rooted in values

4. Normative patterns among students influence patterns of achievement Pervasive anti-intellectualism - popular vs. smart High degree of alienation and disconnection between adults and students Prevalence of stereotypes related to race, class, gender and academic achievement- “stereotype threats” Disruption and defiance from students is common Absence of moral authority among adults

5. Group Discussion: Diagnosing School/District Culture How would you characterize the culture/ethos of your school/district? Relations between teachers and admin., students and teachers, teachers and teachers, parents and school How would you characterize the morale of your staff? What aspects of your school/district need to be changed in order to create a healthier culture?

6. II. Toward a Theory of Change: What We’re Up Against History of perceiving race and intelligence as linked Genetic theories of intelligence - Bell Curve, Jensen, Lawrence Summers, etc. Cultural Theories of intelligence - Ogbu and McWhorter Based on myth of white success Static view of culture Limited understanding of schools

7. Males of color at risk Females out performing males throughout the country Black and Latino males at greater risk: More likely to be suspended or expelled More likely to drop-out More likely to be placed in special education More likely to be missing from honors, gifted and advanced placement More likely to be under-represented among school personnel (except as custodians, security guards and disciplinarians)

8. Need for a Paradigm Shift Old Paradigm Intelligence is innate Job of schools is to measure intelligence and sort accordingly Inequity in resource allocation: give the best resources to highest achievers Adult centered Discipline used to weed out the “bad” kids New Paradigm Intelligence and ability are influenced by opportunity It is the job of school to cultivate talent and ability among students Resources allocated based on student need Student centered Discipline used to reinforce school values and norms

9. Conditions and Systems Needed to Raise Student Achievement: Systems to facilitate school effectiveness Diagnostic assessment to gauge learning needs of students Early intervention procedures Evaluation to insure quality control On-site, ongoing professional development Community partnerships Shared leadership Normative adaptations: Reciprocity - Supportive relationships between teachers and students Collaboration - Willingness among teachers to share ideas, curricula, materials Deliberations - Opportunity for staff to meet and to discuss goals and work Social Closure - Partnership between school and parents Rituals and Practices – to reinforce core values

10. III. Strategies for Transforming School Culture Focus on students Cultivate attitudes and habits that promote academic achievement Confidence, character and competence Self discipline, self motivation Organizational and study skills Implement programs that help in developing these traits: AVID - US FIRST Robotics EPGYG - Gear Up - Think College

11. Developing a Student Centered School Culture Build strong relationships between students and school through extra curricular activities Develop an advisory system Discuss discipline issues and policies with students – CCM Jerome Frieberg Devise strategies to break racial stereotypes Create an environment where racial identity and achievement are not linked - Is it cool to be smart?

12. Focus on Teachers and Staff Use achievement data to make it clear why change is necessary Set bench marks Analyze patterns Hold a retreat with staff to set goals and devise plans on how to achieve them Must find ways to win “buy-in” Provide training on how to relate to parents and build strong relationships with students Targeted professional development Critical friends – analyzing student work

13. Key Principles: External partnerships with service providers to address unmet non-academic needs Health, nutrition, counseling, safety, etc. Quality control in interventions through ongoing evaluation Title I and Special Education Key principles: Kids who are behind must work harder and longer under better conditions – extended day, summer learning Improving the quality of teaching is the most effective way to raise student achievement

14. Key Questions When Developing a School’s Culture: What will it take to educate your students? What are their academic and social needs? What challenges do they face? What skills and resources are needed to meet their needs? How will you achieve “buy-in” from staff, students and parents? What practices and rituals will serve as the basis for your school’s culture?

15. Close the Gap Between Parents and School Engage parents in partnerships to support students based on respect and shared interests Initiate contact before problems arise Design a variety of activities to engage parents throughout school year for parents Hire personnel who have cultural competence and are effective at working with parents

16. Keys to Success Staff understands the external pressures students face and have devised ways to counter the pull of the streets gangs, teen pregnancy, pressure to work Strategies for helping students to plan and think concretely about their future are in place Code switching is taught explicitly Adoption of social skills that make adults in authority feel at ease Learning to code switch Speech, dress, demeanor

17. IV. How Cultures Change Civil rights movement - ordinary heroes Women’s movement - making it personal Anti-smoking campaigns - asserting the rights of non-smokers Key Ingredients: Core group of activists/leaders Strategic allies Vision, goal of the change desired Campaign to win hearts and minds

18. Steps to Take Toward Transforming School Culture 1) Establish shared ownership of the problems Use data to demonstrate what needs to change Ask an outsider to visit the school to assess the school culture (i.e. observe patterns of interaction, teaching and learning, etc.) Solicit input from stakeholders - students, parents, community Provide opportunity for discussion of the problems identified

19. 2) Developing a Plan for Change Draw on existing research, best practices and relevant school reform models to devise a plan for your school Identify rituals, practices and procedures that will serve as the anchor of the new culture Be sure that the plan will address the major problems that need to be addressed and will not undermine existing strengths Provide ample opportunity for discussion of the plan, to answer questions and to receive input for strengthening plan

20. 3) Implementing the Plan Be sure that all staff understand what is expected of them Collect baseline data so that you can monitor change over time Check in at regular intervals to assess how effectively plan is being implemented Get input from students as well

21. Developing Your Theory of Change Map out a theory of change What is your vision? What short, medium and long term steps need to be taken to realize your vision? What resources, support and allies do you need to achieve your vision?

22. V. Addressing school culture as part of a broader reform strategy Focus student peer culture - engage students through extra curricular activities Show students how academic knowledge can be applied in the real world on issues they care about Set high standards - Provides access to rigorous courses and support to succeed Eliminate the track to “no-where” Encourage teachers to serve as advocates, counselors and coaches who demystify success

23. Other Changes that Can Support Higher Levels of Achievement Develop early intervention systems - identify kids who are truant and not working early Develop partnerships with community based organizations - case management and social work, immigrant services, health and social services Increase access to counseling for students Help students to set future goals early Hire individuals from diverse backgrounds in professional roles Mentors, role models, moral authority, bridge builders

24. Cultivating Agency: Influencing the choices that are made by students Educate students about their history and culture Provide opportunities for students to become involved in community service and leadership Utilize community-centered problem-posing curriculum Channel the energy, don’t crush it Sports, music, art Listen: provide students with opportunities to have input on what is happening in their schools

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