School Culture Players

Resistance to change is a reality in many schools, especially those schools with traditionally underperforming students. The pressure to change and improve student performance through the mandates of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) make this an even more difficult task. In order to understand how to tackle this complex issue, school leaders (including teacher leaders) need to understand the dynamics of school culture. Schools have three major categories of players in the school culture arena; Believers, Tweeners, and Fundamentalists.

Believers are educators who are predisposed to the ideas and programs that support the egalitarian idealism of education. They are willing, and in fact seek, the best models to support the universal achievement of their students.

Tweeners are those educators who are new to school culture. These educators are given a probationary period of two-to-five years to pick sides in the school tug-of-war. Unfortunately 50% of new educators leave the field in their first five years of employment and this number jumps to over 70% in urban areas. This group is critical to school improvement because if high-risk schools do not retain qualified staff members, school reform because nearly impossible because long-term initiatives become impossible and there is no organizational memory.

Fundamentalists are educators who are comfortable with status quo and they organize and work against any viable form of change. There goal is to be left alone. They have many tools that they use to thwart reform initiatives, and without the proper leadership, they are generally successful. The interaction of these complex groups of individuals make school reform difficult at best and only disciplined and informed leadership is qualified to untangle this web and focus the school professionals on the singular goal of total student success.