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Transforming School Culture. By Zarina Ahmad. Outcomes for Today!. You will understand how school culture operates from a political, sociological and belief perspective

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outcomes for today
Outcomes for Today!
  • You will understand how school culture operates from a political, sociological and belief perspective
  • You will learn some practical strategies to manipulate school culture to intentionally create a positive atmosphere that maximizes student learning
  • You will identify and effectively diagnose a school culture condition that needs to be transformed at your site and design a strategic plan of action.
all about me
All About Me
  • My background
    • I was born and raised in Oakland
    • I attended OUSD schools K-12th grades
  • My experience
    • I’ve been an educator for 28 years.
    • I began teaching in small schools that focused on African centered education
    • I joined OUSD in 1993 and taught for 14 years before becoming an administrator in 2007 with New Leaders, Cohort 7
    • My resident year was at Acorn-Woodland
    • This is my 5th year as principal at Piedmont Avenue Elementary
my family
My Family
  • My husband
    • Mubarak
  • My children
    • 1 Daughter
    • 3 Sons
  • All children attended or still attending OUSD schools
vital signs for reform
Vital Signs for Reform
  • U.S. Census Bureau reports in 2011 that 43% of African American youth live in homes that have incomes below the national poverty line.
  • 65% of African American children live in homes headed by single parents
  • Of the over two million incarcerated Americans, African American males account for 900,000 of the inmates
  • 84% of these inmates are functionally illiterate.
more vital signs
More Vital Signs
  • The Latino population in the U.S. has grown rapidly and they are now facing many of the issues that have plagued African Americans
  • Poverty, and health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and mental health.
  • Regardless of race, students from poor families experience the costs of a poor education
identified links between high school graduation and the quality of life
Identified Links Between High School Graduation and the Quality of Life
  • African American and Latino students graduate from high school at a rate slightly above 50%
  • Adults without a high school diploma are twice as likely to be unemployed
  • The life expectance of high school dropouts is 9.2 years less graduates
  • The average 65 year old graduate is in better health than 45 year old dropout
in the words of the apollo 13 spacecraft
In the words of the Apollo 13 spacecraft:

“Houston, we have a problem!”

why are our kids dropping out
Why Are Our Kids Dropping Out?
  • Lack of a quality education foundation in the early years-failure in High School
  • Lack of interest
  • Violence
  • Family responsibilities
  • Becoming a parent
  • Pushed Out
need for positive school culture and climate
Need for Positive School Culture and Climate
  • We have to make school a place where students want to be
  • It begins with the adults taking an honest look at our beliefs, practices, and behaviors
defining school culture
Defining School Culture
  • “School culture is the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school.”
positive school culture
Positive School Culture

Teachers’ Belief


Teachers work together to support student and teacher growth

Share best practices

Students and families feel supported by teachers and the school

Positive attitudes

  • All children can learn
  • All children will learn because of what we do.
  • This belief is passed on to others in overt and covert ways

Teacher Complaints



Staff does not believe in the students ability to learn

Negative attitudes

No desire to change or make improvements

  • These kids don’t eat breakfast
  • The parent is in jail
  • These kids don’t do their homework
  • No one in the home can read
  • These kids are too far behind
my school
My School
  • SF Examiner ran story due to a bullying incident where a student suffered a skull fracture
  • Labeled the most violent school in OUSD due to high number of suspensions for violent behavior
  • Hurt feelings
  • Mediocre Teachers
  • No trust
  • No 5th Grade promotion ceremony
  • Dark
  • Trash
  • Underperforming
  • African Americans targets not met
three big rocks year one
Three Big Rocks: Year One
  • Efficacy: Professional Development on Beliefs!


Believe You Can! Work Hard! Get SMART!

The Future is NOW!

  • College Going Culture: All Classrooms named after colleges and universities with the belief that are students will get there.
  • Celebrations: Weekly Student Summits, Awards for academic growth, Core Values, Charms, Shining Stars, CARES, Principal Awards
smaller rocks
Smaller Rocks
  • Began Professional Learning Communities-Cycle of Inquiry, Best Practices
  • Established a Teacher Leadership Team
  • Exposed teachers to other schools that were getting results (Dropping seeds for academic changes for year two)
  • Kept an open door, visible, smiling, participate
traits of leadership character to build trust
Traits of Leadership Character to Build Trust
  • Do not make promises that cannot be kept.
  • Back your people when it counts
  • Take responsibility and be publicly self-reflective when times are tough
year two academics
Year Two: Academics
  • Introduced and adopted Si Swun Math for all grade levels. Provided training and support.
  • Introduced and adopted “Read, THINK, Apply”, reading comprehension program for all grade levels. Provided training and support.
year three
Year Three
  • Change Prep from Art and Dance to Science/Art
  • District Support
piedmont avenue proficient and advanced
Piedmont AvenueProficient and Advanced

Math 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12

51% 67% 61% 73% (+12%)

ELA 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12

44% 49% 49% 55% (+6%)

API 744 795 (+51) 780 817!

living in dialogue dyad protocol
Living in DialogueDyad Protocol
  • Describe a school culture dilemma at your site and the possible root causes
leadership matters
Leadership Matters
  • Lead teachers in the process of learning. Expose them to knowledge that enlightens their practice and gives them a new context to believe in student growth.
  • Familiarize yourself with the history of the school and community, and articulate a vision that will inspire others to think in new ways.
  • Continue to improve your skills and credentials. Nothing says competence like a person who exhibits the quality of lifelong learning.
  • Be the change you want to see.
  • Belief you can do it!