"P" soup: creating healthy school environments through culture audits

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Date: January-February 2014
From: Childhood Education(Vol. 90, Issue 1)
Publisher: Association for Childhood Education International
Document Type: Article
Length: 4,017 words
Lexile Measure: 1370L

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Recognizing the role of cultural audits in identifying a school's organizational and cultural characteristics, this article offers insight about developing school improvement plans. The multiple cultures that shape the "null curriculum" of a school, in which certain concepts and skills are left out of students' scope of learning, strongly influence their learning experiences and academic achievements. Cultural audits can help in designing school improvement plans that address the values of the marginalized and ensure equitable learning environments for all students. The Six Ps identified in this article--policies, practices, personnel, programs, processes, and parents--provide the foundation of a comprehensive, planned approach involving school and families. Such a process of planning and policy-making can have significant implications for systemic reform geared toward closing student achievement gaps, especially among minority student populations.

In the United States, President Obama's Race to the Top initiative offers incentives for systemic reform to improve teaching and learning (The White House, 2013). This initiative has brought to the forefront reform efforts needed to address the inequities that exist in U.S. schools. While teachers, administrators, school board members, community members, and policymakers may be aware of these inequities, they rarely examine them systematically or devise ways to eliminate the inequities (Skrla, Scheurich, Garcia, & Nolly, 2004). Historically, equity audits have been used to examine inequitable practices relevant to civil rights, curriculum, and state accountability policy systems (Skrla et al., 2004). Diaz, Pelletier, and Provenzo (2006) define equitable treatment as providing instruction and support that meet the needs of the student(s) and refute the notion of a "one-size-fits-all" education. As such, equitable treatment is decidedly more difficult to achieve than equal treatment and, therefore, is often a road less traveled compared to "equal treatment" in the realm of education (Diaz et al., 2006).

The benefits of an equity audit are numerous and noteworthy. However, a cultural audit can reveal beliefs and ideas that are tightly woven within the fabric of a school's culture that are not visible through the lens of an equity audit. A culture audit is an examination of an organization's operational elements to determine its level of cultural proficiency. By uncovering a school culture, it can be openly and purposefully discussed, developed, and assessed. Ultimately, this new knowledge will contribute to an educational experience that is personalized by capitalizing on students' strengths and addressing their challenges. Most important, students will benefit from a curriculum that is characterized by rigor, relevance, and relationships that are amplified by the energy and motivation of staff members and students (Cleveland, 2007; Deal & Peterson, 2009).

Researchers agree that school culture and cultural audits are important, yet often overlooked, components of school improvement (Freiberg, 1998; Lindsey, Robins, & Terrell, 2003; Peterson & Deal, 1998). Culture audits examine how diverse cultural perspectives are reflected in the values and behaviors manifested in the overall school culture (National Center for Cultural Competence, 2005). The assessment of school culture would ideally include mixed methods that combine traditional quantitative and qualitative methodology to triangulate data. Researchers Bustamante...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A357965664