Leadership Moves…Positive Transformational Culture

Part 2: Positive Transformational Culture as the Foundation

The positive transformational culture influenced every aspect of schooling: student behavior, classroom instruction, extra-curricular activities, professional learning communities, professional development, school routines, procedures, policies, and more. As well, the positive transformational culture influenced changes that improved learning results for every racial/ethnic group, every language group, students with disabilities, and other groups of students who had typically not excelled at school. Educators did not simply seek to transform the schooling experience for one demographic group of students. Instead, they sought to ensure success for every group they served. As a result, students perceived that their success in school was likely. The positive transformational culture made school a place where all demographic groups of students wanted to learn and grow.

In these schools, curricular and instructional strength was built upon a foundational culture that helped teachers, students, parents, and support personnel feel valued and appreciated.

As discussed in our last post, each of the empowering school characteristics, including challenging curricula, effective instruction, and a positive, transformational culture, played a central role in the success of the high-performing schools we awarded and studied. All three supported the pursuit of excellence and equity; however, these three distinguishing characteristics did not carry equal weight. Instead, our conceptualization of these influencing features of school life looks more like Figure 2.1 in which positive transformational culture serves as a foundation for efforts to improve curriculum and instruction. In these schools, curricular and instructional strength was built upon a foundational culture that helped teachers, students, parents, and support personnel feel valued and appreciated. Fisher, Frey, and Pumpian (2012) expressed this concept by writing about the relationship between academic press and school culture. They explained, “Academic press is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient to operationalize the mission of the school. We believe that no school improvement effort will be effective, maintained, or enhanced unless school culture and academic press are both addressed and aligned” (Fisher, Frey, and Pumpian, 2012, p. 5). In the high- performing schools we studied, it is unlikely that individuals would have invested the necessary energy to pursue curricular and instructional transformations, in the absence of a culture that made them feel like they belonged as part of a larger family system.

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