Partnership for Whole School Change


"When a school community positively transforms their school culture, the     members become positively transformed by the culture they have created." 
                                                                        J. Curtis Jones


  About Us                                              

The Partnership For Whole School Change (PWSC) is a program of Cooperative Artists Institute (CAI), a nonprofit organization founded in 1970. CAI's mission is to harness the power of the performing and visual arts to overcome family and community fragmentation.

The United States' K-12 education system has 13 nations that are ranked above it in overall academic performance. Also, too much of what our schools teach prepare our citizens for a world that no longer exists. There is a relationship between these academic outcomes and the economic decline of 40% of our nation's income earners. These are the education conditions that elevate family and community fragmentation. 

To meet these challenges, CAI's Senior Program Developers merged education theory and practice, cultural anthropology and economics, technology and science, consensus decision-making, and the arts. Our developers use these and other modalities to take the first step towards forging a school transformation technology for today's global reality. We work from the premise that no one person or group has the answer to the complex challenges today's global reality presents to educators. 

In 1999CAI formed the Partnership For Whole School Change (PWSC) to house an initiative that:  

  • provides a place for people to create and master a school transformation process that meets the challenges of a globalized world; 
  • furthers the development of this school transformation technology; and 
  • helps schools implement it.

To learn about the PWSC's major players, framework, and its 14 action steps, visit About Us, Continued. 

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The PWSC?s School Transformation Framework encapsulates this website's content. The website outlines the way the framework helps school members understand and change their school culture. The framework's design was inspired by the universal pattern[1] ? a tool used by cultural anthropologists to study a community's social and cultural system.

The PWSC picked and reworked a universal pattern that best reflected the workings of a school community. Our universal pattern has three parts:

  1. the school's ecology (the way the school culture is adapted to its natural physical and social environment; 
  2. social structure (how the school culture attains and maintains a social life that promotes a quality academic and social school climate); and 
  3. the school members' mental and emotional characteristics that fit them to their school's ecological and social  life and situation.[2]

The result is a framework that enables a school community to see their school as a cultural system that is a unitary whole made up of many conscious and unconscious cultural patterns. Here are practical organizing steps for school communities that want to establish this framework

Though our framework shows great promise, not enough time has transpired to assess it as a whole system or evaluate its ability to transform a school's culture. For now, the focus of the PWSC's results will be on outcomes and testimonials in the links below that were inspired by our 35 transformational "tools" and strategies.  They have a rich history of use in the field.  To learn more, visit:

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[1] Marvin Harris, Culture, Man, and Nature (New York, 1972). p. 143. The universal pattern favored by the PWSC is the one created by British anthropologist, Radcliffe-Brown, Alfred Reginald (1881?1955) who was the ?founder of structural functionalism and father of modern British anthropological theory. With Malinowski, he initiated a ?functionalist revolution.?? Dictionary of anthropology [cited 5 January 2014]. Available from the world Wide Web: (   

 [2] Harris, p. 1  




 Research and Fieldwork 

Since 1970, our founding artist/educators have worked in over 2000 schools. Their work has left us with a unique school change strategy. Our research has shown no K-12 school, school change or government organ- ization with the same mission. None used cultural anthropology to:

  • study the global marketplace;
  • establish schools that have intentional school cultures;
  • communicate what a school culture is; and
  • conceptualize and treat their school as a whole instead of a collection of individual parts.

Since 1999, the PWSC's ongoing collaborations and fieldwork opportunities have led to the development of 35 tool that facilitate school change. These tools are the result of our research and are designed to help schools prepare our citizens for a globalized world. Our research uses questions like the following to help our "best" and "worst" schools see the need to change:

Whenever your school sustains and/or improves its performance, is it because of a school culture your school community created, or is it attained through other means (i.e., the efforts of a strong principal, school group, or powerful external agency)?

When their is a need to change, does the change take place due to the external push and pull of mandates and external pressure groups, or does your school community have the capacity to  make the change?

Does your school?s culture have practices and components that enable school members see their school as a whole, while keeping them aware of all their school?s many parts?

Do school members have a common language that helps them communicate clearly to themselves and each the other issues school communities have to deal with?

Are the school members conducting school meetings that engage and support all school members?   

Are school members being more intentional about attaining the social and academic results they want their school to have?

After the students graduated from your school are they humanely succeeding in the global economy?

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 Outcomes and Testimonials 

Using the arts and humanities, CAI has created 87 offerings for school, college, comm- unity, workplace, and religious settings. The creation of our School Transformation Frame- work has benefited from all these past developments.  Below we have listed programs and projects that have been key to our framework?s development and efficacy.  To see the rest of them, visit Our 35 "Tools.

Cognitive Affective Coupling helps place human relationships at the center of instruction strategy. It strengthens social and emotional learning, character development, and equalizes the status of cognitive and emotional learning. When academics are alienated from emotion, higher order learning does not happen. There needs to be the emotional fuel that drives a student to do the deep thinking and researching these subjects require. Cognitive Affective Coupling reengages this powerful motivator, and integrates it with what the students need to know. Cognitive Affective Coupling equalizes the time spent on what students know with the time spent on what students feel about what they were learning.  It provides engaging classroom experiences and simulations that motivate students to care about knowledge enabling them to become life-long lovers of learning.
  • The Outcomes.  Boston?s Harvard-Kent, Warren/Prescott, Sarah Greenwood, Boston Teachers Union, Charles Taylor, and James Hennigan School, and the Boston Public Schools Unified Student Services all had programs that successfully employed the PWSC?s Cognitive Affective Coupling.  More than 750 students from these schools experienced teaching strategies that engaged their emotions in learning reading, writing, science, and social science.  PWSC's artists/educators lead professional development and hands-on in-classroom sessions for 41 teachers to help them use the Tribal Council Circle, a classroom circle time strategy that places human relationships at the center of instruction strategy.  Teachers learned to implement simple Tribal Rhythms performing and visual art experiences and group building lessons that were organized around what their students enjoyed, knew, and cared about.  This helped teachers learn about their students' emotional worlds ? the places within and outside the students they want to be.  With this knowledge, these teachers could expand their students' emotional worlds to embrace the learning of academics. 
  • Testimonials. ?The artists demonstrated the magic of combining Tribal Rhythms and Second Step Curricula in my classroom.  They helped me use Second Step to teach my students how to study voice tones and body language to recognize what they and others were feeling.? (Ms. Cameron, Classroom Teacher)    "My favorite Tribal Rhythms activity was using the drum," wrote a student in Ms. Cameron's class, who up to this time had not written a complete sentence. "When I did the beat with the drum I felt very calmed down...sometimes I be very angry.  But when I tap on the drum I calm down...When I'm mad my temples are burning.  When I'm calmed down it?s cool.  That is how I felt about the drum." (Fourth Grades Student at Boston?s Warren/Prescott School) ?Using the artists' discussion, brainstorming, and role-playing techniques my students were able to discover and share feelings about their academic studies we teachers need to know. I became a better teacher by seeing more clearly the relationship between my students? feelings about academics and their academic strengthens and weaknesses.? (Ms. Mullen, Classroom Teacher) 

The Tribal Rhythms Program builds community and satisfies the need to belong. It does this using the theme of tribe, group building activities, and the arts.  The nurturing, socially inclusive, learning environment it creates is the foundation of the Learning Tribe, a key teaching and learning "tool."  This program's creation was a response to drastic global changes that increased: single parent households; two working parents, latch key children; and rootlessness cause by families constantly having to move.

  • The Outcomes. Between 1970 and the present, over a million children and adults have benefited socially, academically, and artistically from Tribal Rhythms performances, work- shops, and residencies. Thousands of students and teachers have been engaged in the program's fundamental culture-making activities that result in the creation of a classroom identity with commonly held cultural patterns.  We call it the Classroom Learning Tribe.  PWSC artist/educators have redesigned the Learning Tribe to be the gateway through which our transformational process enters the classroom.
  • Testimonials. "I asked the Tribal Rhythms Program to focus on the fourth grade, our most difficult and low achieving grade that had constant disciplinary challenges and averaged a half-year below grade level on the CTBS Test.  As fifth graders, due to your program and our school staff, discipline problems decreased and their CTBS Test scores averaged a half-year above grade level.  They improved two years in grade mean equivalent in one year.?  (William Driscoll, Principal)  "The class was very interested to hear about the history and culture of [other] tribes and were eager to form their own."  (Annetta Cournoyer, Classroom  Teacher ?They are very protective of and caring about their Tribe; that speaks for how well the concept works." (Susan Nutting Classroom Teacher)  "They relish each moment of every activity of a [Tribe] council circle meeting.  I see a unity and cohesiveness that was missing before." (Susan Nutting Classroom Teacher)   "Awesome... I don't wanna stop... I never want to leave." (Three Mile Elementary School students, Wilbraham, MA)

Multicultural programs to desegregate Boston Public Schools were designed and implemented with resources and support from Chapter 636, a successful Massachusetts state law that was passed to facilitated desegregation. What was learned during this multi-year effort to counter the stress and violence students faced integrating Boston's schools formed the basis of the PWSC's School Climate Project 

  • The Outcomes. Between 1974-84, CAI worked with over 39 Boston Public schools and helped over 800 Boston Public School students create caring, authentic relationships across the racial divide.  Our programs demonstrated to schools and educational service providers the power of the art's to bring people together and build community.
  • Testimonials. "At a time when the City of Boston is under great stress, students, parents, and teachers need what CAI provides" (Patricia Cornu, Education Coordinator, The Children's Museum)   "When one student was making his classmates upset another student stepped in and said, 'We are a family in this class. Families make others feel good, not bad.'" (636 Lead Teacher)  "As part of Boston's desegregation efforts, CAI and the Children's Museum have worked with the students from the Hennigan School in Boston and the Philips School in Watertown.  The CAI's unique [multi-cultural] methods led to better understanding between both schools and their students." (Patricia Cornu, Director of the Children's Museum's Resource Center)  "It would be quite remiss of me... not... to express my gratitude to... Cooperative Artists Institute for its support of the District II Chapter 636 effort for the 1983-84 academic year." John Coakley, Administrative Assistant, Superintendent District II)  "We felt that the tools and strategies helped us create a sense of community in our classrooms. This atmosphere allowed individuals to feel a sense of accomplishment and ability to achieve their individual academic potential. (Jane Williams, Classroom Teacher)  "Starting our [Nurturing Socially Inclusive Classroom Learning Environment] worked well... We talked about being caring, cooperative, and respectful, and this seemed to change the atmosphere in the room. Children became more aware of other children's feelings." (Joanne Walcott, Classroom Teacher)

The CAI's Therapeutic Arts Program at the Tileston Alternative Education Cen- ter (TAEC) was Boston?s first therapeutic arts curriculum. During our six-year collaboration with the TAEC, CAI?s artist/educators were members of the team of psychologists, teachers, social scientists, and social workers who oversaw the program.  Our artist/educators applied music, drama, movement, and the visual arts to design and implemented therapeutic arts programs for elementary, middle, and high school students. Many of these students had anger management challenges, diminished impulse control, and aggression against authority figures severe enough to have them placed in a residential therapeutic setting.  CAI's Therapeutic Arts Program was strengthened by this unique experience and has been applied in many other therapeutic programs and settings.

  • The Outcomes. The Tilestone program provided therapeutic arts experiences for over four hundred youths, age five through sixteen, living with developmental disabilities and behavioral challenges. It enhanced the Tileston School?s therapeutic practices as well as its overall therapeutic effect.  Out of this six-year project, CAI's Therapeutic Arts Program was born.  In various configurations it has been inserted into residential treatment sites, alternative education centers in public and private schools, and in educational and therapeutic situations. The program helped these sites mainstream or improve the outcomes of youths with physical and psychological challenges that require special assistance and long-term care.
  • Testimonials. CAI?s artist/educators can articulate behavior management theory, institute sound practices, and use the arts effectively as a creative methodology for managing and improving student behavior.  They are organized and professional hands on experts, and in my professional opinion, ?they are the best I have encountered in the past 20 years.? (Elliot Feldman, Ed.D., Director of BPS Special Education Department)  "They [CAI artist/educators] have adapted their performances and workshops for... severely and profoundly multiply-handicapped adolescents... They have presented their program at several Very Special Arts Festivals each year since 1982... I have been impressed by their ability to single out people in need of esteem-building and self-confidence and allow these individuals to demonstrate skills... they may not have know the had." (Daniel Wiener, Education Specialist Massachusetts Department of Education)

PWSC?s School Team Building Process is a manual and professional devel- opment opportunity that helps school members create authentic caring rela- tionships and provides them with leadership and leadership support, consensus decision-making, and meeting management skills. This school team-building process evolved out of Cooperative Artists Institute's strategic school planning methodology. Formal Consensus, the consensus model this process employs, was contributed by C. T. Butler, who co-created it with Amy Rothstein. And, family and community mediator, Joyce Shabazz, Dr. Ulric Johnson, and Dr. Shirley Malone-Fenner?s Transformative Leadership has provided valuable constructs and insights.  The manual brings together and reformulates these contributions to give schools the capacity to build school teams that guide their school?s transformation process. This manual is critical, because a school cannot be better than the school teams that govern it or the meetings its teams conduct.

  • The Outcomes. Boston?s Haley Elementary School?s teachers and principals used our School Team Building process to develop their three-year strategic school plan.  At Boston?s Harvard Kent K-8 School, CAI artist/educators applied the process to provide teacher training with a focus on team building, designing an integrated arts curriculum, conflict resolution, and organizational management for 35 teachers.  At Peaceable Schools and Communities? Summer Institute at Lesley University, the PWSC?s School Team Building Process has been an offering in their summer institute from 1999 to 2009 providing over 100 teachers, school administrators, college students and faculty an introduction to the process.  Dance New England has successfully created and produced its summer dance camp using Formal Consensus strategies, the same decision and meeting management method used in the PWSC?s School Team Building Process.  Five hundred campers a year, of all ages are feed, sheltered, educated, and entertained. An entire camp is rented and the income and expenses overseen, human waste is managed, the sick tended to, and the safety of hundreds are protected.  All this is accomplished using Formal Consensus to establish and guide the teams that have successfully developed and maintained this camp for three decades.
  • Testimonials. ?We [Boston's Harvard Kent School] needed to insure a long-term impact. Teacher ownership and understanding was important, so I turned to our friends from CAI to help instruct, direct and facilitate staff training in building a cooperative school environment.  The collaborative model [our School Team Building Process]... was very effective.  Individual staff members who have never before offered to contribute to the general welfare of the school, have come fourth." (Joanne Mc Manus, Principal)  "Our Festival Of Friendship, was created as a school-wide celebration of our diverse cultural heritage.  This event was orginated, planned, and directed by teachers as a result of CAI's collaboration." (Joanne Mc Manus, Principal)

Tribal Rhythms® Creating the Village: A Curriculum Guide for Building Community with Children gives the artist/educator and the classroom teacher a guide for working with students to build the Classroom Learning Tribe.  This guide helps provide the gateway through which the PWSC?s transformational process enters the classroom and this is realized using proven community building classroom management and performing and visual arts techniques.

  • The Outcomes. Over a million people have participated in the Tribal Program, and over 8,000 students have enjoyed the guide's group building and 21 community building arts activities. Within the guide's Tribe Council Circle, these students had more opportunities to participate in making decisions about classroom rules or expectations and developing a sense of ownership of them. Most teachers report positive changes in student behavior, and attributed these changes to the impact of the guide's curriculum activities.  Hundreds of after-school children and staff have used this curriculum to help children learn to make friends, build community, and end bullying and youth violence. An essay describing the effectiveness of this program and curriculum can be found in the "Arts As Education" Symposium published in the Harvard Education Review (Vol.6, No. 3, 1991).
  • Testimonials. "The Tribal Rhythms Curriculum is superb, important, and very badly needed." (Jonathan Kozol, author and educator)  ?Everything is extremely clear and well-presented in sequenced, logical order." (Filippa Giunta, Classroom Teacher)  "A kindergarten teacher in my school purchased this curriculum and used it with a difficult group of children.  The way her students learned to value and care for each other and the sense of community... was impressive!.. I am anxious to use it with my class... " (Janis Hamel, Classroom Teachers)   ?The program is a joy?one that my class will give up gym for.? (Susan Nutting, Classroom Teacher) ?[Disagreements] do occur? but I can see that the [Tribe] Council [Circle] helps them look within themselves for solutions.?  (Najwa Abdul-Tawwab, Classroom Teacher)   "I would like to start every day with Tribal Council Circle.  I think it would set the stage for a successful day." (Lead Classroom Teacher)