Welcome to the
 Office of
  Intentional School Culture

Building Your School Culture

Denver Public Schools has made the intentional shaping of each school's culture in the service of academic excellence and character development a priority. A school culture functions as a magnet that can uplift behavior, learning and achievement or can have a negative impact on the education of its students. We define culture as ‘how things are done.' This includes how teachers teach and how students learn, how students, staff and parents collaborate, and how a school responds to its challenges, successes and failures. The Office of Intentional School Culture supports schools in building these effective cultures.

In working with schools we first raise awareness of the potential inherent in a school culture. Then we provide the tools and guidance to help schools create and harness their school culture for the benefit of student development. While our office provides technical assistance, much of the work is done by the school, led by two teachers, the school culture committee, and the principal.

Our major tools for intentionally creating an effective school culture are the following:

  • The School Culture Survey (completed every October & February) followed by a staff World Café, assesses the quality of a school's culture to enable a school to celebrate strengths and make midcourse corrections. Other diagnostic tools are also used.
  • A Touchstone or creed is a statement of a school's values - both academic and ethical - that elevates the daily behavioral norms of students and staff. Students can gain awareness of their behavior through rubrics based on the touchstone values, while teachers may gain feedback in light of these values through peer reflections.
  • The Four Mindset Model identifies the dominant mindsets (dependent, independent, interdependent, and integrative) of students, staff and parents. As a school community embraces a more developed way of thinking and acting, the school increases its capacity to improve academic achievement and character development. The Shared Agreement Protocol can transform a staff of independent minded teachers into a collaborative team. Class meetings can foster student voice and motivation. The Parent Model can point parents towards more productive partnerships with their child's school.
  • The Eight Gateways represents deliberate entry points such as leadership, academic expectations, and problem solving for understanding and shaping a school culture.
  • Other approaches as service learning, restorative discipline, and youth leadership training are supported through our office upon request by a school.

A DPS teacher wrote, "This has proven to be the most remarkable work we have committed ourselves to at our school. Our children made a mid-year shift showing less aggression and more cooperation. Our discipline made a similar shift from punitive to restorative. We are growing, learning, and trying new things and I feel that it will only get better here. Teachers have commented on the change, and our newfound perspective on teaching, that words like love, compassion, honesty, kindness, and integrity have become a part of our daily vocabulary."

DPS Superintendent A.L. Thelkeld made this point in a monograph back on 1929:

Every recitation and activity, curricular or
extra-curricular,is a life situation in
which character is being developed
in one way or another. The problem before
the schools is so to organize and develop
these activities as to develop insight,
will, and habit to the end of good character.

The goal of the Office of Intentional School Culture is to assist schools in this important work. Please contact us if we can be of help to your school.