Book:  How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom

Author:  Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian

Purchase:  Print | eBook

Citation:  Fisher, D., Frey, N. & Pumpian, I. (2012). How to create a culture of achievement in your school and classroom. Alexandria, Va: ASCD.

Three Big Takeaways:

  • Need to treat every stakeholder that enters the building as if they are entering the Ritz-Carlton - they need to know they are doing to have an amazing experience in your building. (pg. 17)

  • Positive interactions do not just happen organically. Promoting positive interactions between students and adults requires concerted attention to the ways in which the school environment is structured. For example, training teachers and staff on how to deal with conflict in constructive ways could help prevent conflicts from escalating. (pg. 39)

  • Going to struggle with behaviors if relationships are not there with students; In order for the student to handle redirection effectively, the staff member must have a strong relationship with the student.  And when a student does make a mistake you need to make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable but the person is valued. (pg. 58)

Other Key Ideas:

  • School Culture should not be underground and assumed; Culture is born from an organization’s vision, beliefs, values, mission

  • Whereas in business you have a customer, in schools you have the student; customer = student

  • To be successful, organizations must create memorable experiences for customers and the memory becomes the product just as much as the good or service; One idea is to have visitors write comments in the sign-in sheet like you would do at a bed and breakfast

  • Imagine if every staff member considered it his or her job to make every student, parent, and visitor feel noticed, welcomed, and valued. (pg. 19)

  • There may be no better way of examining the culture of a school than to hold informal conversations with students.  If you take the time, students will offer you honest and often raw insights into their school’s culture. (pg. 38)

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  • Hard and fast rules applied to all students are hard to enforce​One arbitrary rule will not apply to all students. (pg. 47)

  • Adults should not be in the hallway to supervise.  Instead, they should be watchful and available. Consider having an “info” desk in the hallway with two chairs in case a student needs someone to chat with.  

  • Never force an apology from a student - has to be up to the offender to do this. Also, don’t yell “Why did you do that!!” (pg. 57)

  • When behavior pops up assume there is an underlying story, and have a conversation to figure out what it is.  It may be time consuming, but it should save you time in the future. (pg. 64)

  • Its the responsibility of every adult to deescalate problematic behaviors whenever possible.  Adults should not escalate a situation. We don’t hold the student blameless, but it is essential to recognize that even small transgressions can delve into major incidences in the wrong hands. 

  • Schools should establish norms that limit the use of yelling, threatening, and sarcasm in adult-student interactions. (pg. 98)

  • Must separate competence from compliance.  Homework completion, behavior, employability = compliance; How a student does on standards-based tasks = competence.  Grades should reflect the student's’ understanding of the content. (pg. 110)

  • Academic recovery shouldn't be only for those students under 70%, should also be for students that want to move beyond minimal compliance. Also give those students a chance to redo where it can't hurt their grade,  only help it. Who wouldn't want their kids to push themselves? Whether students participate in academic recovery to clear and incomplete or improve grade, the school’s achievement level is raised. (pg. 114)

  • Learning should be constant and time should be the variable. Instead of learning being the variable and time being the constant. (pg. 116)

  • When staff members see their peers making mistakes and nothing being done to correct those mistakes, they start to question their loyalty to, and support of, the workplace. (pg. 138)

  • Every Ritz-Carlton property has a daily meeting in which staff recommit to their core values and customer service practices. As part of this conversation, they examine their successes. Schools can do the same thing. Rather than by monthly staff meeting for 90 to 120 minutes, imagine having 10 minutes of time together every morning. (pg. 161)

  • Leaders should continually evaluate employee performance with respect to the school's academic and cultural standards. Leaders need to determine whether an employee is currently a strong performer, or an employee whose performance must change dramatically in order to be a productive and contributing member of the team. Strong performers need regular feedback, assurance, and acknowledgement. We too often take them for granted, but our agenda must be to retain them as passionate and committed members. Pg. 17

  • Effective documentation of incidents an example is when performance violated agreed upon aspects of the schools adopted plans to provide academic rigor  and build culture should be kept. Conversations typically advance over time from verbal warnings to written warnings and notices. Crucial conversations must occur, and expectations must be specific and clear, whether provided verbally or in writing. Pg. 171

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