Partnership for Whole School Change


The Education Establishment: What Is It, And What Does it do

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Most dictionaries define the education establishment as a group of people who oversees elementary and secondary school systems, or other educational institutions.[1] We agree with this definition, but it says nothing about the people who oversee these establishments.

A more descriptive definition might define it as a group of people with significant social status and power. These movers and shakers play the role of gatekeeper in each of our nation's local regional and municipal K-12 school systems. This small, largely informal, but powerful group has tremendous influence over the development of school policies and the hiring and firing of school personnel at the highest level and pay scale. Educational establishments make up or heavily influence school committees and other similar bodies that are legally charged with overseeing our nation's local school systems. For example, education establishments create systems and events like Boston's Mayoral Candidates Forum to examine and shape the policies of politicians running for office. What is most important is that the mode and shape of our K-12 education system is determined by our nation's local educational establishments.

This local group's well connected members have the economic means, the social support, and the time to volunteer for this role. This establishment does not have absolute power, but if the general public it represents power is low the education establishment's power is great. if the general public it represents power is significant the education establishment's power is more equal to those it serves. Part of the education establishment's power comes from the following actions its local society allows it to take. Education establishments: 

  • frame, channel, and set the K-12 agenda for their school system;
  • establish, in their locales, the parameters of school policies and debates;
  • determine who the "responsible" players in education are; and
  • are in the best position to determine what school policies matter in their local.

When these establishments reach a consensus, they are in the best position to influence school committees and other school decision making bodies. Then these bodies pass the key components of the education establishments' consensus on to our K-12 schools. When the members of these establishments cannot reach consensus it is felt throughout the school system

Education establishments in Massachusetts' upper and lower class communities have had their successes and failures, but they have not been able to address the challenges of globalization. A major reason for their lack of success is their top down approach to education planning and implementation.

The top down approach prevents the education establishments from creating authentic, caring grass roots relationships with their school community members. Without these relationships, school members are too alienated from these establishments to integrate their policies and mandates into their school culture. This top down approach also trains school communities to be passive, so they wait for solutions and answers from on high when today's marketplace rewards proactive school communities that can create and own the solutions to their problems.

Another issue is the educational establishments' narrowness of the scientific base that informs their policies and actions. In this global market world, our K-12 schools need to be at the hub of every science that focuses on what it means to be human. This should include the sciences that research the forces that keep humanity's sociocutural systems working, people's growth and development, teaching and learning, social justice and cooperation, the technologies and tool-like systems that humans create, and the natural world humans inhabit.

The members of our nation's education establishments are drawn from the town, city, or region where the most influential and wealthy people reside and work. They tend to make up their locale's dominant social, racial, and economic groups. A small number of the general population may be chosen for their special knowledge, their relationship with powerful institutions, or the large voting block they represent. Here are some examples of those who are traditionally chosen:

  • businesses and corporate leaders; 
  • community residents with the most social and economic power and/or those who serve them and their interests;
  • university and college leaders;
  • foundations and large K-12 school donors;
  • government agency members and politicians; and
  • the leaders or patrons of the local's most influential religious, social, art, cultural, health, and community organizations.

Each education establishment member brings his or her concerns and interests to the table. Each member may have differing values when it comes to dealing with four issues that repeatedly challenge most of our nation's school systems:

  • the ongoing struggle to place students and teachers first;
  • appreciating and preparing their schools to uphold the critical role they play in our civil society's health and survival; 
  • working with groups and individual who want the school to uphold or reject their closely held social, economic, religious, political, or other ideological beliefs; 
  • managing powerful economic interests that push for the narrowing of students skills in order to focus them more on skills that profit their economic and labor interests; and
  • how do we motivate school communities to strive to establish nurturing, socially inclusive learning environments that help students realize what they are passionate about.

Since 1999, the PWSC has appealed to these education establishments to play a new role in education that replaces a top down approach with a bottoms up strategy. We offered the PWSC's 19 school transformation components as a possible way of implementing this strategy. These components empower school staffs to graduate students who can humanely succeed in the global marketplace.

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Copyright © 2012 Cooperative Artists Institute. All rights reserved.

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1. sensagent - dictionary. sensagent Corporation: Online Encyclopedia, Thesaurus, Dictionary definitions and more. (2014)  SENSEGATES SARL (FRANCE) Managing director: D. Dutoit <>

1. Give Students Transcendent skills

Here is a small example of the academic and social skills students need to become citizens who can humanely cope with the stress caused by the marketplace's rapid changes and destructive innovations.

  • Become lifelong lovers of learning, so when they become workers and entre- preneurs, they are infinitely more trainable, resilient, and able to change;
  • Have sound preparation, research, and study habits, so when they become workers and entrepreneurs, they know how to be ready and confident about whatever they are doing;
  • Help students ascertain where their genius lies and develop it, so as workers and entrepreneurs, they have the ability to create the jobs of the future. To give our students the best opportunity to compete in the global economy, we have to have schools that play to our students’ strengths as citizens of a wealthy first world democracy. Many of our nation's ideologists have to stop treating our students, especially our poor students, as if they are third world students. This lie deprives our students of first world opportunities, condemns them to third world poverty in a first world nation, and places our nation's children in a competition that plays to the third world students strengths and our students' weak- nesses. [12]
  • Teach students to learn alone and in teams, so when they become workers and entrepreneurs, they will have the skills to overcome difficult professional and workplace challenges alone or in teams;
  • Create learning environments that teach academic skills in real and simulated situations, so students become workers and entrepreneurs who can appreciate the connection between academic skills and the ability to create solutions in the real world.  Having this experience makes students more innovative and able to create or work on the jobs of the future;
  • Students need the experience of having all their academic subjects being seamlessly integrated together (e.g., performing and visual arts fully integrated with community building and social science; student run "banks" and "businesses" integrated with the math; musical instrument making integrated with science and technology, etc.). These experiences help students "think outside the box," and they become workers and entrepreneurs who can see connections between and among things that others do not see.

  • Make the building of caring and authentic relationships a central part of the academic lesson, so when they are employees and entrepreneurs, they will be able to make allies and maintain healthy, productive connections with themselves and others;
  • Have project-based learning, team-building, leadership, and lead- ership support be a core part  of the classroom experiences, so when students become workers and entrepreneurs, they are able to establish humane, highly productive, and innovative organizational structures; and
  • Teach students critical life survival skills by seamlessly integrating them into their academic curriculum (i.e., healthy eating and exercise habits, having entrepreneurial skills, developing values and attitudes that promote economic and social skills, gaining support from and being supported by your civil society, having effective community and political organizing abilities, developing the habit of voting, understanding political parties and how to influence and create them; knowing your civil, human, worker, and investor rights; knowing about life, health, and other insurance products; instituting retirement strategies when young; understanding employee benefits, social security, medicare, banking and saving skills, credit and interest, stocks and bonds, real estate, unions and collective bargaining, tariffs, trade policies, etc.). When students gain these skills, they become workers and entrepreneurs who can cope with or moderate global marketplace changes.

Copyright © 2012 Cooperative Artists Institute. All rights reserved.

2. Our school transformation process gives schools the capacity to fulfill their state and school district mandates and goals.

Mandates like the Massachusetts Model System for Educator Evaluation and the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks represent a consensus state and local officials have reached concerning school staff evaluation and what students should learn. They are examples of useful top down state and district mandates that establish guidelines for schools. The PWSC's school culture framework offers schools what they need to successfully achieve these mandates 

Schools are more able to implement state and district mandates if they use the concept of culture as a framework for understanding their school community. Simply put, we see a culture as being a community's total way of life. Forty-three years of fieldwork in over 2000 schools enabled our founding artist/educators to discover the ways this concept helps schools respond well to these mandates. Its presence also increases a school community's ability to attain the following understandings and goals and move the school forward.  
  • Schools are more likely to implement state and school district mandates if each school member's culture is treated with equal attention and respect. 
  • Students who learn in school settings that integrate their most important cultures (e.g., family, community, and peers) are better students, because they are more prepared psychologically, emotionally, and cognitively for school.
  • The overwhelming majority of our nation's K-12 schools are upholders of middle class, northern European cultures. Seldom are other cultures permitted to share the central position occupied by these two dominate cultures. This is the case even when the schools are in non middle class and non-European communities.
  • Schools that are unable or unwilling to integrate their students' family and community cultures into the school increase the likely hood of hurtful cultural collisions. This results in students and parents who are less able to prepare themselves for school. The culture/class conflicts that emanate from this situation makes the school community too chaotic and dysfunctional to realize complex state and school district mandates.  Too often this collision of cultures is seen by school staff as student misbehavior, disengaged parents, or academic underachievement.   

The value of a school being able to integrate the positive aspects of the cultures that matter most to their students and parents are huge. The Bronx Charter School for Excellence, a high quality working class New York inner city school, has been able to carryout this integration, and they are celebrated for their ability to implement their state and city mandates.  When this cultural integration is real, students are more centered. They do not have to cope with "being smart as acting white" or a girl's high achievement in physical education or science as acting "butch." They are liberated from these and other debilitating generalized responses (Ralph Linton)

The PWSC works from the premise that conflict among cultures in our schools is caused by adults and can only be solved by adults. We are not mislead by youths who have learned from adults how to carryout these conflicts on their own. Blaming children and adolescents for these adult driven problems is never helpful.

To give school members the capacity to integrate their cultures into their school's culture, we work with school staff and parents using 35 transformational tools. To describe how our strategy works we will demonstrate how the PWSC's culture based framework empowers a school to fully implement Massachusetts State Standard for Principals. Employing culture as a framework enables a principal to reveal, communicate, and work with every aspect that makes up a school

  • the school building, school yard, and grounds;
  • the making and carrying out of school plans;
  • the procedures for orderly student entry and dismissal;
  • the way students carry out their arrival and dismissal;
  • the training of staff to uphold school expectations;
  • the way the staff upholds school expectations;
  • the establishment of school teams to identify data sources; and
  • the involvement of stakeholders in conducting a sound diagnosis of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.
These and all the other actions, reactions, and behaviors in a school make up its cultural patterns. Though at times they may appear to be separate, in fact they are interconnected within a unique configuration that is the school's culture.
Before a school can effectively carryout the state standard for principals, the school's culture has to accept and uphold the standard.  If the school culture does not uphold the standard, it will not be implemented. Therefore, before one can apply the state standard for principals, the school culture’s role as gatekeeper between what people want and what they actually get needs to be acknowledged, understood, and acted upon
Culture stands between wanting and having, a plan and a product, and a goal and its achievement.  More than not, it is the factor that determines how the forms of motivation (peer pressure, values, attitudes, feelings, etc.) are experienced and organized within the school community and within each school member. Culture provides the motivation for school members to look within themselves and their school to find constructive solutions and work for productive and sustainable school change.  It determines whether school members "game the system" or are inspired to invest in the school's learning environment. Culture determines whether teaching, learning, and other critical goals will be established and sustained, and whether authentic and caring relationships will be the norm or the exception in a school.
To show how the PWSC's culture based framework helps schools implement state and local school mandates, we will use Standard One of the Massachusetts' standard for principals. Listed below is Massachusetts' first standard for assessing the principal or headmaster's educational leadership.

"Standard One: The education leader promotes the learning and growth of all students and the success of all staff by cultivating a shared vision that makes powerful teaching and learning the central focus of schooling."

"Indicator 1-A. Curriculum: Ensures that all instructional staff designs effective and rigorous standards-based units of instruction consisting of well-structured lessons with measurable outcomes."

"Indicator 1-B. Instruction: Ensures that practices in all settings reflect high expectations regarding content and quality of effort and work, engage all students, and are personalized to accommodate diverse learning styles, needs, interests, and levels of readiness."

"Indicator 1-C. Assessment: Ensures that all teachers use a variety of formal and informal methods and assessments to measure student learning, growth, and understanding and make necessary adjustments to their practice when students are not learning."

"Indicator 1-D. Evaluation: Provides effective and timely supervision and evaluation in alignment with state regulations and contract Provisions."

"Indicator 1-E. Data-Informed Decision Making: Uses multiple sources of evidence related to student learning, including state, district, and school assessment results and growth data, to inform school and district goals and improve organizational performance, educator effectiveness, and student learning."

Standard One has five indicators of success (1-A through 1-E) that split into elements (e.g., that insure student safety, health, and social and emotional needs; that effectively maintain and manage school plans and procedures; etc.)They are what the principal needs to do if he or she is to address all the indicators. Each element is made up of three components:

  • the actions that the principal or headmaster is taking;
  • the goals the principal or headmaster is realizing, and
  • the effects the principal or headmaster is having.

When a principal or headmaster is addressing an element, one or more of the three components are always in playTo establish culture as a framework to actualize Standard One above, the school leader needs to communicate to the staff that the standard, the indicators, and the elements are new behaviors the state wants our school to integrate into its culture.  The school leader has to understand that using the framework to facilitate the process of integrating these new cultural patterns into his or her school culture is what gives the school members the “shared vision” spoken of in the the state standard for principals.

Mandates, like Standard One, are highly sophisticated directives.  It is not possible for a school administrator to realize them if the school's cultures are not in sync, and the student body is distracted by wars among home, community,  peer group, and school cultures.  It will not happen if the school leader and the school’s dominant Ideology, (a critical cultural pattern) are in conflict. A good way of assessing one's chances of realizing the standard is to obtain truthful answers to the following questions.

  • Does the principal or headmaster's ideology and the school staff’s ideology have the same commitment to this standard?
  • Does the principal or headmaster’s ideology and the school staff’s ideology have differing commitments to this standard, and what are the differences?
  • Is the principal or headmaster’s ideology committed to this standard while the school staff’s ideology is uncommitted or hostile to this standard?
  • Is the principal or headmaster’s ideology uncommitted or even hostile to this standard while the school staff’s ideology is committed to this standard?

If these questions are not answered and dealt with truthfully, all other attempts to realize the standard will be blocked by culture’s gate keeping role.  For school leaders to successfully realize Standard One, they need to know how to play a leadership role understanding, communicating, and if needed, transforming their school's culture. School leaders with these skills have the best chance of successfully "cultivating a shared vision that makes powerful teaching and learning the central focus of schooling."

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4. School members need a constructive way of dialoguing with themselves ...and each other, so they can effectively work together to oversee their transformation process.

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The PWSC has a system that facilitates communication among K-12 school community members. The system's core concepts help a school's members coordinate their efforts to discover and understand their school culture. Its concepts also empower K-12 schools to change or establish new school cultures, and our system is comprehensive and user friendly. To help keep the system's users focused on the humanity we all share, all its core concepts are grounded in the science of cultural anthropology.

If used consistently, the system gives school communities a way of dialoging  and working together. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents are able to communicate to others what they are experiencing, thinking, doing, and achieving in the learning environment. The communication system has the capacity to make the necessary connections among the many sciences, educational philosophies, and K-12 teaching and learning strategies schools need to employ. The system's language also enables school members to communicate more clearly the various cultural and behavioral differences that make up the school culture. Over time, school members will learn to successfully understand and communicate how this knowledge is experienced and understood by themselves and others on a conscious and an unconscious level. All K-12 school members will need a communication system that provides them with these capacities before they can offer the kind of quality teaching and learning experience today's globalized world requires.

Below is the definition of the key terms in our communication system, and how each term facilitates the implementation of your school's transformation process:

 Copyright © 2012 Cooperative Artists Institute. All rights reserved.

6. The PWSC's school transformation process focuses on helping school ....communities make the changes they want to make.

We begin by focusing on helping the school succeed at:

  • doing whatever the school community wants the school to do;
  • achieving whatever the school community wants the school to achieve; and
  • becoming whatever the school community wants the school to become.

Making the changes school members want motivates them to be engaged in their school change process. They become more confident in their school trans- formation process and they gain experience working with our artist/educators. When their school transformation process uncovers more school issues, school community members will demonstrate a greater willingness and capacity to take them on successfully.   

                                                         Copyright © 2012 Cooperative Artists Institute. All rights reserved.

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8. Our school transformation process requires a school to keep its current culture, with its ongoing issues and needs, separate from its efforts establish a new school culture.  

The process of transforming school culture needs clarity to function properly.  The mixing of day-to-day meetings and issues with the school transformation process will reduce clarity.  These two agendas need to be kept separate.  However, there are two exceptions to this rule:

  • any day-to-day practice and issue that are needed to meet the goals of the school transformation process should be treated as part of the school transformation process; and
  • activities and strategies created within the school transformation process that teachers want to implement to improve their present classroom culture may also be taken up.

A plan has to be agreed upon that gives the school transformation process the time to be successful.  It should include payment to teachers for professional development time. After-school and before-school professional development sessions are of limited value, because they are a hardship for school staff, especially teachers.  Time has to be found on days when teachers are not teaching.  For teachers willing to master the school transformation process and teach it to their colleagues, there needs to be time for summer retreats and seminars. 

                                                         Copyright © 2012 Cooperative Artists Institute. All rights reserved.

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