Sally Chamberlain, Educational Consultant 



Sally Chamberlain, Educational Consultant provides leaders in education and the social sectors with customized consulting services, training and technical assistance aligned to NCLB requirements to meet organizational and school improvement needs and to help leaders create the conditions for high level performance and meaningful educational reform.


10 Steps to Create A Culture and Climate for Successful Schools 

Lessons Learned 

  1. Successful districts and schools are led by people who consistently focus their attention on common purpose and vision. When the vision is shared by all stakeholders---administrators, teachers, and students along with school boards, parents and the community at large--- they can successfully align their instruction, programs, structures and systems to shape and implement that vision.
  1. Effective leadership is critical to success and must be broad based and systemic. Too often, high performing individual teachers operate in isolation and without the supports and resources necessary to expand their sphere of influence and sustain their effectiveness. The most effective school improvement strategies are district-based, not school-based, and look to school leaders as positive change agents, understanding and appropriately responding to inevitable change and clearly communicating to all stakeholders.
  1. School culture and climate work to support or negate school improvement efforts. Many good ideas fail because the culture in which they are introduced is not constructive. Constructive cultures build trust. They are safe, healthy places to work.
  1. Another way to look at school culture is how the staff is engaged in improvement at all levels, pre K through graduation. When staff works collaboratively and has the proper infrastructure and processes in place, staff can quickly respond to interventions and improvement strategies and achievement gains are made.
  1. School improvement initiatives must be authentically inclusive. While NCLB requires participation from certain constituents when writing plans for improvement, this does not guarantee open discussion nor buy-in from those who are impacted by the plan (students/parents) or whose daily job it is to implement it (teachers/principals). People of all ages need to feel they have a voice in decisions that affect them if they are to embrace and implement those decisions.
  1. High performing schools are more evidence/data driven than anecdotally driven. While data should inform school improvement decisions, it is important to have the right data. Too much data (data overload) can lead to inertia or even despair. Remember that data is not just numbers. Test results give a picture of student learning but do not tell the full story of a school or district. While it is far more favorable to rely on data rather than anecdote, it can be wise to pay attention to instincts.
  1. High performing schools successfully use meaningful benchmarks and/or formative assessments that are aligned to state standards (or other designated indicators) to improve performance. Success most likely will happen when classroom teachers are actively involved in this process, from administering the benchmark, to assessing its results and directing a course of action based on the results.
  1. Building capacity in systems with strapped resources is a common challenge, particularly for low performing schools and districts. Supporting schools by enlisting the help of retired teachers (and other seniors with demonstrated competence) may lower class size and offer more individualized student instruction, but this strategy has some drawbacks. Without aligned pre-service training on policies and practices unique to the culture of the school or district where they are placed, the good intentions may not work, resulting in inconsistent outcomes and limited academic gains. It is important to remember that the demands of today's educational systems are not the same as those in place five or ten years ago. 
  1. Schools identified for improvement have an immediate need to demonstrate results. These schools frequently attempt to raise performance in one area at the expense of another.  The resulting "roller coaster" effect is similar to what happens in crash dieting. Performance may improve in the short run but cannot be sustained. Short term gains made at the expense of long-term vitality of the school or district are not gains at all.
  1. No question NCLB places demands on all schools.  If, however, schools use only the NCLB definition of high performing, they are destined to experience disappointment. Schools and districts must be prepared to tell their own powerful, compelling story. The success of any new idea or initiative is shaped by how it is communicated to all internally and externally. If the school or district does not define its own message, others will do it for them to be sure.


Contact Information: 

Sally C. Chamberlain Educational Consultant

25 Appaloosa Way

Carlisle, PA 17015

Telephone - 717-503-8862