It’s All About the Culture: Overlooked Key to High School Reform

December 23, 2011
Lydia Dobyns

Lydia Dobyns

A recent visit to Cleveland’s East Tech@New Tech High School stopped me in my tracks. My student ambassador, Brittany, pointed out that she had the best attendance record in the school. She showed me walls depicting what students felt made East Tech special: attendance, a photo collage highlighting student responsibility and trust and walls that were decorated with upcoming graduates. East Tech shares a campus with a traditional high school with the same types of students, but distinctly different outcome. One of the striking differences? Seeing firsthand what is possible when a high school reverberates with positive culture, with school-wide norms. We’re not talking about rules for certain students in selected classrooms. And I thought to myself — why can’t this be considered normal? What if this type of positive behavior was expected of EVERY student, EVERY day, in EVERY school?

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