• Strong leadership, in the sense that principals are “strategic, focused on instruction, and inclusive of others in their work”;What's interesting here is that, as the authors note, none of these are silver-bullet type solutions, but taken together, just a comprehensive picture of what good "culture" looks like at a school. It isn't simply about a fancy new curriculum, high-powered teaching, more assessments, professional development, merit-pay schemes or any other new trick. If anything, the key is a school administration that is able to deliver on a range of factors that go into making a school work. But it is the sum of the parts, how they interact and build on each other that delivers the final result.
• A welcoming attitude toward parents, and formation of connections with the community;
• Development of professional capacity, which refers to the quality of the teaching staff, teachers’ belief that schools can change, and participation in good professional development and collaborative work;
• A learning climate that is safe, welcoming, stimulating, and nurturing to all students; and
• Strong instructional guidance and materials.
Anthony S. Bryk, an author of the book, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons From Chicago , is quoted as pointing out that if a school is weak in any of these 5 areas it will likely fail. While these are largely generalities, and effectively creating each is not an easy task, it is a reminder that we can't reduce educational reform into easy, sound-bite-ready slogans. If we don't look at the whole picture - the curriculum, teachers, assessments, administration, staff, community... all of it, we're setting ourselves up for failure.