How Do We Change?

There are two schools of thought about improving the Christian schools of the United States, but we must remember that when God changes an individual, He changes that individual on the inside with a new birth, a spiritual birth.  School improvement can only occur within the local Christian school and it will involve changing the culture of the school.

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This is the 3rd article by Dr. Suiter in a series about the Christian school principal. To read parts 1 and 2 click here and here.

The first type of change might be called structural change – it deals with changing the policy manual, perhaps creating new programs, modifying the rules and procedures, some of which may have been in place for years.  The second is cultural change.  It examines basic assumptions about the education of children, re-visits and clarifies the beliefs of the professional staff, and studies the habits and norms of people working within the system.  Culture is simply the way things are done.

While there is frequently a need for structural change, the real hope for improving the effectiveness of Christian schooling rests with changing the culture within the Christian schools of this nation.

Who should lead and direct cultural change?  Any commitment to cultural change must include the leadership of the local church or the board of a board-run school.  But, it is the local Christian school principal who must lead cultural change at each local Christian school.

Research into cultural change reveals two things:  first, cultural change is doable, and second, it is undeniably difficult.  But, it can and should be done.  It is an exciting venture for the staff and it can yield very positive results in a short period of time.

DuFour and Fullan (2013), leaders in the cultural change movement, point out the salient features of a systemic approach to improving school effectiveness (click the book title for more information: Cultures Built to Last).

  1. Cultural change must be the driving force of the entire system.  For the local Christian school, this would include church and board leadership.
  2. Cultural change is a process, not a program to be adopted.  That process must be learned.
  3. Every person working within the system has an obligation to be an instrument for cultural change, rather than waiting for others to make the necessary changes.

Governments primarily deal with structural change: such things as increased numbers of credits to earn a high school diploma, increased days in the school calendar, and/or adopting a new model for scheduling classes.  But achievement levels continue to decrease.  Research into cultural change, with professional learning communities (PLC’s) being the preferred model, shows great promise.

Let me encourage you to a dialogue about the following questions:

  1. Does cultural change show any promise for improving student acquisition of a biblical worldview?
  2. What is the level of understanding about cultural change among those working in the Christian school movement today?  What should be done is this area?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

DuFour, Richard & Fullan, Michael (2013).  Cultures Built to Last:  Systemic PLC’s at Work.  Bloomington, IN:  Solution Tree Press.

Dr. Suiter taught in the School of Education at Marshall University. After leaving public education in 1980, Suiter has served in a variety of leadership roles within the Christian school movement both at state and national levels.