REWIRE: Transforming School Culture

Steve Gruenert & Todd Whitaker have skillfully addressed a topic that can often seem nebulous to an educator—school culture.  The authors establish the difference in a school’s climate and its culture:  “climate is around us . . . while culture is part of us.”  The reader is reminded that the school culture will never be changed by simply adjusting the environment; true school improvement (cultural change) comes when internal change comes to stakeholders within the school climate.

FOCE Book Review.001

Chapter 4 asks the $64,000 question – What type of culture do you want?”   Educators often tell me that they desire to see a “change in culture” within their school; admittedly I am often left hanging—the question is obvious.  What new culture is desired?  The authors identify various types of school culture, encouraging school leaders to identify their present state as well as target a new type of culture.

In chapter 6 the authors provide a “school culture survey.”  This data gathering mechanism was purposeful and well-explained.  Most helpful was a section devoted to implementing the data into a plan to “rewire” the culture.

Chapter 7 provides additional survey tools with implementation strategies.  Most helpful is a tool that targets the “purpose” of education, at least as perceived by stakeholders.

The authors provided various leverage points, those opportunities of least resistance to rewiring the culture, in chapter 11.  Since most school leaders indicate that their greatest fear to cultural change is the age old “where do I start?” syndrome, this chapter offers some strategic measures to jump start a cultural shift in a school.

A couple of final chapters are given to developing leadership for cultural shift; the authors focus on the building of a team that can lead the REWIRE.  It is correctly assumed that the cultural shift will struggle and create extreme angst without effective leadership.  Team leadership will prove necessary to an effective cultural change in any school.

Gruenert and Whitaker bring the experience of the classroom teacher as well as the experience of school leadership at the middle and high school levels.  School Culture Rewired is a good blend of information and explanation of what needs to be done with practical helps and how to’s that are needed to implement cultural change in a school community.

I recommend that any school leader interested in bringing a cultural shift to a school begin by reading School Culture Rewired.  Easily worth the price of the book are some of the surveys and tools developed to assist the reader with implementation.  Most impressive is that the authors speak from an authoritative viewpoint, not just theoretically but practically.  Great read!

What are some signs that a school culture might need to be rewired?  

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Gruenert, S. & Whitaker, T.  (2015).  School Culture Rewired:  How to Define, Assess, and Transform It.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.