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Essentials of School Culture and Climate Model

Framework of the ESCC Based on the 5Essentials Model for School Improvement

Note: Adapted from "The Essential Supports for School Improvement" by P. B. Sebring, E. Allensworth, E. S. Bryk, J. Q. Easton, and S. Luppescu (2006).

The survey is a tool schools can use for scanning their performance in the five essential components of school improvement.  Results can be used to make data-based decisions on how to move forward with school improvement efforts.  While each component is described in more detail below, the power of these components comes when they work together to drive improvement in schools.

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  Effective Leadership

The questions related to the Leadership cluster center around three key dimensions of leadership: managerial, instructional, and inclusive-facilitative. 

  • The managerial dimension focuses on the most basic aspect of leadership—the day-to-day running of the school.  Do meetings start and end on time?  Are computers and copy machines functioning properly?  Is there effective and sufficient communication with staff and parents?  When this dimension is weak, it can impact the other dimensions, eating up instructional time or making it difficult to establish a climate for change.
  • The instructional dimension has evolved and is now often seen as the central work of school leadership, and focused on improving instructional capacity in the school, providing teachers with formative feedback, leading initiatives that best serve the school’s needs.
  • The inclusive-facilitative dimension is sometimes called adaptive leadership.  It is the ability of the leadership to build capacity for change.  Without this dimension it is very difficult for a school to successfully implement new programs and initiatives.  
  Involved Families

There are three components to the Involved Families essential. The first is supporting parents to support student learning.  Here teachers seek ways to engage parents more directly in student learning, such as requesting that parents read at home, sending home newsletters, making suggestions for how to create a home environment for homework. 

The second component of the sub-system is teacher knowledge about students’ home culture and community.  Teacher understanding at this level can help them identify culturally responsive strategies for delivery of instruction.  It can also provide the information teachers need to develop strong interpersonal relationships with their students and their families.

The third component of the sub-system is strengthening networks of community organizations. Many students in urban schools have needs that go beyond the capacity of the school to provide them.  Partnering with others in the community is a way to garner resources to provide supplemental services.  Filling these gaps has a direct impact on the classroom teachers’ ability to focus students on instruction.

  Supportive Environment

There are three components to Supportive Environment sub-system.  The first is order and safety.  Feeling a sense of safety is a basic human need.  A lack of safety impacts student learning.  However, this component is impacted by the strength of community and parent ties as well as teachers’ sense of their shared professional responsibility.  In other words, the social ties of the adults, in and out of school impact the order and safety of the school.

The second component of the sub-system is teachers’ academic press and personalism.  Demanding rigor from disadvantaged students by itself will not raise achievement.  When teachers provide ample personal support while pressing students to achieve more, students have a better chance of responding successfully to higher expectations.

The third component of the sub-system is supportive peer norms.  When schools establish expectations that rules are to be followed and that the focus of school is learning, time can be spent on instruction, not correcting student behaviors.  While it can be difficult to establish these norms, it can be done.  Central to success with this component is a strong sense of professional community among the staff.

  Ambitious Instruction

There are three elements to Ambitious Instruction. The first element involves the arrangement of subject matter content and pacing over time, across grades, and across classes. The element maps what students are expected to learn. The second element focuses on the intellectual depth expected of students as they engage the material, which is reflected in the learning tasks and assessments assigned to students. The third element are the pedagogical strategies, materials, and tools made available to teachers to support this activity and the general expectations about the teaching role enacted in the classroom.

  Collaborative Teachers

There are four elements to Collaborative Teachers.  The first is collective responsibility, where teachers share a strong sense of responsibility for student development, school improvement, and professional growth.  The second element is quality professional development, in which professional development is rigorous and focused on student learning. The third element is school commitment, and teachers are deeply committed to their school.  The fourth element is teacher-teacher trust, where teachers are supportive and respectful of one another, personally and professionally.

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