Creating A Climate Hospitable To Education

First a correction in last week’s blog.  I said the CCSSO series School Leadership In Action had four components.  I was wrong. There is a fifth part in the series, entitled Managing People, Data, and Processes. But that segment will be for another week. 

The series is based on ten years of research by the Wallace Foundation. The Foundation distilled the research into five practices of effective school leaders that improve teaching and learning.   Last week I presented the first practice, which was Creating a Vision.

The second practice presented in these video vignettes is entitled Creating a Climate Hospitable To Education. There is some good information presented in this segment.  However, I am going to warn you that I am going to take exception to some of the claims made in this part of the series. When I disagree with one of the claims I will present contradictory information.  My source will be the John Hattie 2009 book, Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating To Achievement. I’m not claiming that Hattie presents the definitive answers, nor am I claiming that there isn’t other research out there that may support these claims.

 What I am suggesting is that we need to question what we read, what we hear, what we are told, and sometimes even our own beliefs.  We need to do this to make the best-informed decisions for our teachers, our students, and our schools.  We need to do this even when the information contradicts our deepest held beliefs. 

I’ll give you an example from my own experience and then we’ll return to the series.  I spent my first six years teaching in the 1970s in a multi-age open classroom situation. I loved the experience of collaborating with my team of teachers, creating our own curriculum, using trade books to teach reading, using manipulatives to teach math concepts, etc. The six of us kept our students throughout their K-6 experience.  We were a family and really got to know our kids. 

Many of the kids thrived in this environment. They could delve into areas of interest. With guidance and support, they learned to be independent, organize themselves, and plan ahead. They learned that students in other grades had important things to offer and that they could be teachers as well as students.

But some children struggled to filter out the constant movement and noise. Some of them had difficulty organizing themselves to accomplish their goals. Working with younger students in a particular area or on a specific skill made some feel they were less smart than their same-age peers.

 Now I recount this in light of Hattie’s research on multi-grade/age classes and Open vs Traditional Classrooms, each of which had a non-existent effect size on achievement.  Of the 138 factors in his analysis, multi-grade/age classes ranked 131st and Open vs Traditional Classrooms ranked 133rd.  This means there were 130 other student, school, curricula, home, and teaching factors that had a greater impact on achievement.  This is challenging information. I would want to delve deeper into the research to determine if there are conditions under which these practices can successfully impact student achievement.  Are there other positive outcomes resulting from implementing these two models that would justify using them?   

 Having suggested this lens through which I’ll present this week’s segment, let me say that the two principals highlight a variety of practices they indicate contributed to an improved climate in their schools.  One is the principal of a middle school in Hyattsville, Maryland.  The other is principal of an elementary school in The Bronx, New York. You may notice as you read my blog and watch the video the relationship of many of these practices to indicators in Indistar.  

Among the practices they conclude helped improve climate and achievement in their schools (and the producers of the series deem worthy of highlighting) are the following:

  • Have the faculty and staff assess all norms and procedures throughout the building.  Work to align these norms and procedures where there is inconsistency.
  • Focus on student behavior and classroom management.
  • Celebrate success.
  • Adopt a policy in which students wear school uniforms.
  • Educate the whole child and provide supports where necessary.
  • Engage and listen to parents.
  • Implement an incentive program whereby students earn dollars for positive behavior and can exchange them for small rewards.
  • Have teachers visit each other’s classrooms to observe good practices and provide time to debrief in a trusting, risk-free environment.

 To view this segment click the screen below.

So I’d like to ask you, the reader, to comment on these practices before I do.  I will comment in next week's blog and cite the research to support my disagreements.  Keep in mind that the CCSSO and the Wallace Foundation are recommending these practices by the mere fact they are included in this segment.   

Do you agree that each one leads to improved teaching and learning?

Do any of these statements contradict your beliefs or practices?

Are there some that are not supported by research you know of or can find?

If you think some are not supported by the research, please share a reference that supports your position.

We look forward to reading your comments and reaction.






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Paul Axtell

With more than thirty years of experience helping organizations and individuals be more effective, Paul Axtell has honed his insights in executive offices and training programs for everyone from office staff and line workers to managers and team leaders.

A large focus of his work is how to run effective and productive meetings—to turn them from something people dread into useful, productive sessions with trackable results.

Paul is the author of multiple books, including Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, Being Remarkable, and Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids. He can be reached at <a href=""></a> and via email at
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