Positive and Supportive Culture

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The third strategic theme in the Douglas County School District Strategic Plan Framework is Positive and Supportive School Culture. The objectives of this theme are to “define and implement a high-performing working environment for all DCSD employees,” “enhance engagement for all DCSD employees through mutual respect and positive recognition,” and “enhance opportunities for all employees to be DCSD ambassadors who are informed and empowered in their professional practice.”


As has long been said by Eric Hirsch, formerly of the New Teacher Center (NTC), “teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.”[1] The NTC understands that educators need to feel valued, trusted, and empowered to collaborate in order to be successful and to improve not only student learning, but also teacher retention.[2] Teacher turnover can impact the overall quality of teaching and learning in a building or district through loss of expertise.[3] Schools and districts must build positive environments in order to retain a high quality workforce.


Working environment and culture encompass a wide array of issues, including salary and compensation, bonuses and rewards, working time, staff-student ratios, school leadership, and infrastructure and facilities.[4] Teachers also believe that collaboration with other educators is connected to positive school climate.[5] Teachers find value in direct professional collaboration, such as team teaching, in improving school culture. They also believe that opportunities to exchange ideas about their practice can lead to improved teacher-student relationships within their school.


DCSD’s strategic plan also recognizes another critical aspect of positive school culture, which is recognizing the value of all employees. Nationally, the status of, and interest in, the teaching profession has declined over the past several decades. [6] Enrollment in teacher preparation programs is decreasing, and around half of teachers leave within their first few years. Recognition of teachers for their work has been shown to be a motivator for continuing high-quality instruction.[7] Recognition can vary from verbal, material (such as a plaque), professional support, or financial.


Some places have tried merit pay as a motivator, but research indicates that it does not lead to significant improvements.[8] Structured career ladders are one way to recognize the work educators do through financial and professional incentives.[9] Career ladders give educators opportunities to grow in their roles, increases personal and professional satisfaction, improves job performance, and builds internal capacity to improve student achievement. These systems are transparent and empower educators to meet their full potential.




[1] See https://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/EPRU-0504-110-OWI.pdf.

[2] https://ncteachingconditions.org/uploads/File/NC%20val%20rel%20brief%20%205-14.pdf

[3] http://gpseducation.oecd.org/revieweducationpolicies/#!node=41734&filter=all

[4] http://gpseducation.oecd.org/revieweducationpolicies/#!node=41734&filter=all (from http://www.oecd.org/education/school/43023606.pdf)

[5] http://www.oecd.org/education/school/43023606.pdf (pg. 122)

[6] https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/08/09/enrollment-is-down-at-teacher-colleges-so.html?cmp=soc-tw-shr

[7] https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1649&context=ajte


[8] https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1649&context=ajte


[9] https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/rtp_careerladders.pdf