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.

Many Priority and Focus Schools have made substantial progress in delivering high-quality instruction to all students. Sustaining those strategic improvements and building on the momentum for change is now a principle interest, and developing instructional practice and cultivating leaders is the ambition of every educational organization.The MSU Office of K-12 Outreach works to help all K-12 schools and districts continue to grow their collective capacity by leveraging their own assets.

Over the past few years, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan State University Office of K-12 Outreach, the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, and other partners worked to create the MI Excel Statewide System of Support (SSoS). In their role with MI Excel, MSU brought together a cadre of experienced and highly trained educators to mentor and guide Priority and Focus school and district personnel in their pursuit of higher achievement. The work was grounded in the research of nationally known scholars, including Joseph Murphy, William Parrett and Kathleen Budge, Franklin Campbell Jones, Lynn Sharrat, Rick Hess, Brett Lane and Bruce Wellman, all of whom were brought in by MSU to train the specialists and work with school and leadership teams from MI Excel schools and districts.

In Harvard Business School, Sheryl Sandberg was the only woman in her class who received a prestigious academic award, but kept it a secret. She believed school life would be easier if she wasn't identified as "the smart girl," a problem her male peers never faced, who were able to speak openly about their accolades. In her New York Times bestseller Lean In, Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, shares her continuous struggle to cope with the lifelong pressure of being a "smart girl," which started as early as high school when she asked the yearbook club to remove her title as "most likely to succeed."

Technology can make a positive difference for students at risk of failing and dropping out by personalizing instruction and making it more engaging. With the right balance of classroom instruction and technology-based instruction, any educator—including those who consider themselves less technologically savvy—can blend learning.

During a recent visit to Michigan State University’s (MSU) College of Education, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said using data well is a common characteristic of turnaround schools. “In schools that have improved student achievement, everyone knows and understands weak spots, and tries to create strategies based on them,” Flanagan said.

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