Activity Guide

Evaluating Your School Culture

According to Terrance Deal and Kent Peterson, to focus on culture means to look at its “deep pattern of values, beliefs, and traditions that have been formed over the course of its history.” In schools, these beliefs, values, and traditions are sometimes more simply referred to as “the way we do things around here.” School outcomes, both desirable and undesirable, are directly related to the practices and philosophies embedded in the culture of a school. Any attempt to change and improve the undesirables needs to begin with an analysis of what currently exists.


Reading: “Creating a Culture of College Readiness,” Principal Leadership, March 2012, pp. 62–63.

A. A review of “Creating a Culture of College Readiness” will guide your staff as they determine your school’s culture by observing and listening to the conversations in the halls and classrooms of your school. In small groups, discuss whether you have noticed the cited beliefs and actions in your school.

Reading: “School Cultural Evaluation Exercise,” Breaking Ranks: A Field Guide for Leading Change, pp. 60–63.

B. The School Culture Evaluation Exercise can help school teams assess elements of their school culture along a continuum. The full evaluation exercise is included in the Breaking Ranks publication reading.

  1. Complete: Allow school team members to complete the full School Culture Evaluation survey following the directions on page 60.
  2. Process: Use the directions on page 60 to facilitate group discussion as members process survey results by:
    • Identifying large and noteworthy gaps and their implications
    • Identifying actions to be taken as the result of your findings
    • Ascertaining the status of school culture as it relates to student performance
    • Discussing areas of perceived weakness in depth.

Remind teams to consistently ask: What will it take to turn Cs (where we are currently) into As (where we want to be in the near future)? Use sample probes on page 63 as needed.