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High Growth Title I Schools School Culture

School Culture

Research strongly reinforces the importance of a positive school culture in support of student academic achievement. In particular, teacher efficacy (ERIC doc ED379216 by Ross, J.A., 1994) and high expectations for students (Reeves, 2009, are critical elements that provide the foundation of a supportive learning environment.

All of the nine schools were intently focused on student achievement. The belief that all students can and will learn at high levels was evident. Most of the schools displayed a sense of urgency and agreement that one year of growth in one year’s time is not good enough for the majority of students at the school. Staff took ownership of the learning for all students, not just those in individual classrooms. According to the reports generated by the ESP reviews, the following were the highest ranked School Culture indicators among all nine schools:

  • Teachers regularly communicate with families about each student’s progress
  • Teachers and staff care about students and inspire their best efforts
  • Teachers and nonteaching staff are involved in formal and informal decision-making regarding teaching and learning
  • The school and classroom environments are culturally responsive
  • All school staff members actively support the school’s equity efforts

These indicators align with the research on school culture and support the idea that the belief structures of staff do and can impact student achievement. Other visible beliefs that permeated the school cultures included the teachers’ beliefs that they have an impact on student successes and failures, and students’ beliefs that they also were responsible for their own learning. The combined beliefs of teachers and students yielded measurable results in student academic performance.

For more information regarding implementation of this standard, follow this link to be directed to the School Culture section of the High Growth Title I Schools Study: Summary Report.


Video clips of principals discussing their successes with some of the school culture indicators:

  • Core mission, vision and beliefs of the school permeate the culture
    • School culture video 1 - Principal discusses the need for all staff to hold high expectations and relationships that support this.
    • School culture video 2 - Principal speaks about the importance of accepting values and making them part of the school culture.
  • Expectations for high levels of staff and student performance – no excuses
    • School culture video 3 - Principal talks about the need to move from a teacher focus to a student focus: considered a critical factor in a school’s success.
    • School culture video 4 - Principal discusses how, in years past, there was a lot of excuse-making and how this was overcome.
    • School culture video 5 - Principal discusses how teachers’ attitudes and expectations were out of sync. School conducted book studies to change thinking.
  • Laser-like focus on the work necessary to accomplish student success
    • School culture video 6 - Principal discusses how data must be visible to teachers, used by teachers, and owned by teachers in order to facilitate decision-making.
    • School culture video 7 - Principal describes the various data tools and points used by staff.
  • Consistent and clear expectations for behavior and academic performance
    • School culture video 8 - Principal discusses how he tries to put discipline into perspective, as a means to a learning end.
    • School culture video 9 - Principal addresses the importance of what’s going on and why: becomes the causative factor for misbehavior.
    • School culture video 10 - Principal discusses the need for an organizational schema and adult’s use of consistent processes.
  • Apparent constructive synergy throughout the school at all levels – partnerships are evident


Follow the links below for more information on how these schools are creating a positive school culture.

Effective School Practices (ESP) review reports

School briefs

School profiles

High Growth Schools Home Page


For Additional Information Contact:

Nazanin Mohajeri-Nelson
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