School culture and school climate, while not synonymous, are inextricably intertwined with one another and with the ability of a school or district to transform itself into an entity that:

  • is responsive to the needs of all students;
  • creates an environment of shared values and high academic and behavioral expecations for students and staff; and
  • fosters excellence in its students, teachers, parents, and administrators.

The twin pillars of climate and culture are what create a sense of community among all individuals, a community built around the values of respect, creativity, caring, rigor and the shared expectations that all students can and will succeed.

The articles and videos in this category will explore topics around school culture and climate.

According to EdWeek, 62 big-city school systems have pledged support to President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative dedicated to improving academic outcomes for African-American and Latino males.1 But keeping this pledge will require educators, throughout Michigan and across the nation, to address the often uncomfortable issues around how they feel about and deal with young males of color. It also means moving beyond negative stereotypes and preconceptions. According to Dr. Darron T. Smith, "Negative representations of African-American males are readily visible and conveyed to the public through the news, film, music videos, reality television and other programming and forms of media."2

cultural proficiency journeyBook Author: Campbell Jones et al. (2010)

The diversity in today's schools is continually increasing and educators are being called upon to teach every child, regardless of race, class, gender, disability, or other indicators of difference. This raises questions such as:

  • What are the most effective instructional techniques needed to educate students from diverse backgrounds?
  • What levels of cultural knowledge do teachers and leaders need to educate children from diverse backgrounds?
  • And in what ways can schools fulfill their responsibility to educate every child? (p. iv)

EpsteinBook Author: Joyce Epstein et al.

The book, School, Family, and Community Partnerships Your Handbook for Action, is a comprehensive how-to guide for schools to use to cultivate productive partnerships with the community. Prior to reviewing this book, a reader might wonder why are community partnerships so vital to schools reform efforts? According to the text's author Joyce Epstein, "Community partnership activities can lead to measurable outcomes for students" (p. 34). The text presents a number of resources and materials for a school to use, to plan, and execute community (and parental) partnership initiatives. A shortened list of the materials offered by the book include: presentation materials for professional development sessions, group discussion activities, an example school survey on community and family participation, a rubric to measure a school's progress on partnership development, and a strategic planning matrix for schools to use for creating new partnership-related initiatives. School, Family, and Community is also accompanied by a corresponding CD-ROM that contains PDF copies of all of the resources and materials contained in the book.

KochanekBook Author: Julie Reed Kochanek (2005)

The text Building Trust for Better Schools Research-Based Practices (published by Corwin Press in 2005) intends to aid school practitioners in developing a better understanding of the importance of cultivating and maintaining trust among school stakeholders (i.e., administrators, teachers, students, and parents). According to the author, Professor Julie Reed Kochanek from Southern Oregon University, trust within schools is a "key resource in school reform" (p. XV). The level of trust within a school is "linked to increased participation among faculty in school reform efforts, greater openness to innovations among teachers, increased outreach to parents, and even higher academic productivity in a school" (p. XV). Namely, trust aids in creating a school culture that is focused on collaboration and a narrowed set of goals—which translates into a higher-quality learning environment for students.

When Dorinda Carter Andrews was a high school teacher, she was her own worst critic about how issues of culture, power and privilege impacted her teaching. She devoted time and energy toward reflective practice and trained to be a more effective multicultural educator. Now an associate professor at Michigan State University (MSU), Carter Andrews shared in last month’s MI Toolkit article strategies to become a more effective multicultural educator which, she says, is “not an option but a must” to serve all student demographics.

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