The Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy works with schools to assess and subsequently enhance school culture, improving students’ well-being, academic achievement, and civic preparation.
What is School Culture?
Culture refers to the underlying values, norms, and rules (both written and unwritten) that shape observed outcomes and behavior. In their book, Shaping School Culture, Terrence Deal and Kent Peterson, two scholars of school culture, aptly describe it as a school’s “unwritten rules and traditions, customs, and expectations.” School culture affects “the way people act, how they dress, what they talk about or consider taboo, whether they seek out colleagues or isolate themselves, whether they work together, and how teachers feel about their work and their students.”
In sum, school culture acts as the foundation for the entire school community.
A comprehensive account of school culture is not possible because culture encompasses observable and unobservable elements, and because schools are complex organizations in which multiple factors (internal and external) influence outcomes. Instead, elements that intertwine to create school culture must be measured.
Measuring School Culture
At IEP, we measure critical elements of school culture that reflect stakeholders’ beliefs about their schools through our School Culture 360™ survey. We look at expansive elements of a school community, including:
- School Climate: Characteristics of the school environment that foster academic achievement and positive interpersonal relationships.
- Academic Climate: Characteristics of the learning environment that promote high expectations, teacher support of student learning, and peer support of student learning.
- Civic Open Classroom Climate: The routine experience of deliberation and viewpoint diversity.
- School Mission and Vision: The stakeholders’ beliefs about the school’s commitments and values.