Reflections on How Children Succeed: Culture Creation in Schools

There’s another way of viewing our education crisis: it’s a culture crisis. How many schools have taken a mirror and clearly articulated the shared values that unite their community, how they define success in a graduate (in terms of mindset, not test scores) and how they specifically approach learning? Let’s consider each school to be the community center that it is. We need to bring administrators, teachers, parents and students together to co-create their culture and value set. This will give them the clarity and purpose for their pedagogy that is necessary to move forward with unified pride and confidence.

Paul Tough describes KIPP’s attention to culture to give students an identity and sense of belonging.


Psychologist, Angela Duckworth explains:

“KIPP’s approach to group identity is a central part of what makes the schools effective: ‘What KIPP does is create a social role shift, so that a child will suddenly switch into a totally different mindset.’”

Cultural values are stated both explicitly with messaging posted everywhere and implicitly, woven into the DNA of how the school functions. This ethos and set of mantras help communicate a positive and opportunistic message: that intelligence is malleable and success is achievable for all.

We all need something to believe in. Culture doesn’t mean religiosity or exclusivity. It means finding a story that gives us motivation and a clear way to feel successful.

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