Change school culture by altering the conditions in which they operate

December 3, 2010 •

Yesterday the New York Times ran an article about changes that have gone on in the Baltimore Public Schools district since Andres Alonso took over three years ago.

It describes how the superintendent managed to enable change in the culture of BCPS schools, moving away from compliance and punishment and toward empowerment – of both students and adults. Principals used to spend more time filling out directives from the central office, the article says. Now they have full control over the schools’ budgets and are held accountable for performance. Responding to incentives, suspensions are going down and schools are increasingly employing mediation and counseling to manage discipline.

A teacher is quoted saying that their school now has “the feel of a charter school.”

In this article from Education Week Education|Evolving partner Ted Kolderie is quoted describing the affect conditions have on a school’s ability to evolve.

Early supporters of the chartering idea, he says, talked about a “ripple effect” where charter schools would spur other schools to pick up on their innovations. “But Kolderie added that he’s learned the conditions in the public schools have to be right for that to happen. ‘Whether there is a ripple effect depends on the pond and not on the stone,’ he said.”

Image: Andres Alonso, NYT