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School Culture

School Culture

1 July, 2016

School Culture refers to the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions, but the term also encompasses more concrete issues such as the physical and emotional safety of students, the orderliness of classrooms and public spaces, or the degree to which a school embraces and celebrates racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural diversity.

  • Results from both conscious and unconscious perspectives, values, interactions, and practices, and it is heavily shaped by a school’s particular institutional history. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other staff members all contribute to their school’s culture, as do other influences such as the community in which the school is located, the policies that govern how it operates, or the principles upon which the school was founded.


  1. Negative cultures
  2. Positive cultures
  • Characteristics of Positive Culture:
  1. The individual successes of teachers and students are recognized and celebrated.
  2. Relationships and interactions are characterized by openness, trust, respect, and appreciation.
  3. Staff relationships are collegial, collaborative, and productive, and all staff members are held to high professional standards.
  4. Students and staff members feel emotionally and physical safe, and the school’s policies and facilities promote student safety.
  5. School leaders, teachers, and staff members model positive, healthy behaviors for students.
  6. Mistakes not punished as failures, but they are seen as opportunities to learn and grow for both students and educators.
  7. Students are consistently held to high academic expectations, and a majority of students meet or exceed those expectations.
  8. Important leadership decisions are made collaboratively with input from staff members, students, and parents.
  9. Criticism, when voiced, is constructive and well-intentioned, not antagonistic or self-serving.
  10. Educational resources and learning opportunities are equitably distributed, and all students, including minorities and students with disabilities.
  11. All students have accessto the academic support and services they may need to succeed.

Common Ways that Schools May Attempt to Improve their School Culture:

  1. Establishing professional learning communitiesthat encourage teachers to communicate, share expertise, and work together more collegially and productively.
  2. Providing presentations, seminars, and learning experiences designed to educate staff and students about bullying and reduce instances of bullying.
  3. Creating events and educational experiences that honor and celebrate the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the student body, such as hosting cultural events and festivals, exhibiting culturally relevant materials throughout the school, inviting local cultural leaders to present to students, or making explicit connections between the diverse cultural backgrounds of students and what is being taught in history, social studies, and literature courses.
  4. Establishing an advisory programthat pairs groups of students with adult advisor to strengthen adult-student relationships and ensure that students are well known and supported by at least one adult in the school.
  5. Surveying students, parents, and teachers about their experiences in the school, and hosting community forums that invite participants to share their opinions about and recommendations for the school and its programs.
  6. Creating a leadership team comprising a representative cross-section of school administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community members that oversees and leads a school-improvement initiative.