How receptive is your school community to implementing school climate improvements?

Voices from the Field is a place for administrators, teachers, school support staff, community, and family members to (1) share what you think by responding to a polling question, (2) see what others think by viewing the poll’s results, (3) learn what experts think by reading a short post that includes references and related resources, and (4) share your own experiences by posting comments on safe supportive learning topics.

How receptive is your school community to implementing school climate improvements?

Learn What Experts Think

To create a culture in a school community so every child feels valued and respected, a real commitment is required from district and school administrators, and school personnel. The commitment is backed by actual time and resources, an assessment of the needs and strengths of the school, policy and practice improvements, and a plan to implement, monitor, and evaluate the improvements. However, studies show that a common downfall when implementing new programs, especially in schools, is a failure to make that commitment.

Too often, the implementation team does not recognize how the existing school culture will need to change to accommodate the new approach. Lackluster results are often the end product when the implementation team:

  • Underestimates the time needed to manage the program, perhaps relying on volunteer coordinators who, though often talented and motivated, are simply unable to commit the time necessary for successful implementation;
  • Neglects to plan how teachers with already heavy workloads will integrate the demands of a new program into the school day; or
  • Fails to get more assistance from top administrators even when they say it is important.

The research is clear: Taking the time up front to realistically assess staffing levels and culture, as well as equipment, space needs, and even policy changes, will pay off in the long run. So will administrators and personnel who “walk the talk” by attending trainings, supporting adequate staffing levels, and problem-solving complications that arise.

References

Fixsen, D. L., Naoom, S. F., Blase, K. A., Friedman, R. M., & Wallace, F. (2005). Implementation research: A synthesis of the literature. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, The National Implementation Research Network (FMHI Publication #231).  http://safesupportiveschools.ed.gov/index.php?id=1378.

Mihalic, S., Irwin, K., Fagan, A., Ballard, D., & Elliott, D. (2004). Successful program
implementation: Lessons from Blueprints. Washington, DC: U. S. Dept. of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/204273.pdf.
 

Related Resources

 

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Deb Robison
Family and Children First Coordinator, Norwood Schools

We knew the biggest resistance would come from staff who would think either a) Don't ask me to do one more thing, my plate is already full, or b) Is this the flavor of the month? So when we were thinking about doing a program, we took a year and researched what kind of program would work well for us. We worked with Miami University, and asked our staff to fill out questionnaires about what their interest was so we could get a baseline. And that helped us when we went back to present the program. We could say, You said, 'Don't give us an intensive daily program,' and we listened to you. Our program is PeaceBuilders, (www.PeaceBuilders.com), which is basically six principles. The only thing that has to happen every day is that there's a pledge we say. And beyond that the staff can be as involved as they want--or not. One thing we've done is reframe things we're already doing using the PeaceBuilder language. For example, we have a group that has gone and done environmental clean-up as a science project for years and years. With the PeaceBuilder language, we can talk about that as one of our core principles, Helping Others.

Peggy Berrier Boyd
4-H Youth Development Agent

Our program started 14 years ago through the foresight of some wonderful people who were wanting to work with community organizations. Our school superintendents have been leaders with vision. So they saw this early: Don't reinvent the wheel. Before the doors opened, we found out what we were capable of and where we could get funding. It was a combination of what do we have and what do we need. It wasn't one answer. A number of community programs started with an emphasis on K-12. Lack of consistent funding caused some programs to fade from existence. The part that has lasted the best has been KidZone, the after-school program. We have a lot of kids in the urban area who do not have the skills to put them at grade-level. The after-school program is an opportunity to advance their literacy skills. We have a group of service-providers. Research and Extension does 4-H. We've got Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire USA, we have a martial arts group, a group that does African drumming, we've had artists come in and do program providing for a year. We've been lucky to pull in so much varied talent: the kids who stay for the after-school program have so many opportunities. And we know the program is working: The juvenile crime rate for after school has gone down and the grades of kids who've participated have gone up!

MaryAnn Mytar
Bucksport High School

At our school, we didn't experience a lot of resistance to the changes we implemented to build more support for our 9th graders. What the BARR grant has allowed us to do are things that teachers have always wanted to do but haven't been provided adequate time to accomplish. We even had a whole year to plan before implementing the grant, which is rare in education. (BARR stands for Building Assets Reducing Risks. It's an I-3 federal grant that Search Institute—www.search-institute.org—is administering that focuses on easing the transition to high school for 9th graders.) There's a lot going on with the grant, but if I had to boil it down, I'd say three things, starting with I-Time. The kids love I-Time. It's a discussion time once a week when each of the four core teachers take turns to focus their classtime with students on issues relevant to the kids: teamwork and leadership skills, social stresses, being a good listener, assertiveness training, how to say no... Then there's the coordinator's role. I have the time to look after the small details, keep track of all the data we're collecting, and make sure the ideas we come up with to help kids get followed up on. But probably the main thing is just giving teachers time to focus on the whole student, not just the academic side—they have 40 minutes every day for this. On Mondays, they use that time to collect grades, find out who's doing their homework, really get a picture of how their assigned students are doing. Tuesday and Wednesday they get together to talk about the students and work together to find ways to help students thrive, and then there's Thursday - intervention day, when teachers have the time to follow-up on what the team has decided needs to be done next to help struggling students --- calling a parent or meeting individually with a student, for example. And then on Fridays, there are always loose ends to take care of—planning I-times, sharing management strategies and protocols.... BARR helps us to make sure that no one gets lost in the cracks here. We even had one student who complained, I just wish you guys would stop paying so much attention! The students know that especially during their freshman year, their teachers are paying very close attention to them and are committed to help them succeed.