School and District Cultures as More or Less Inclusive
Rational action in a school, school district, or other organization involves explicit work to accomplish agreed-upon goals. If schools and districts were completely rational, the educators working in them would make effective use of all the expertise and other resources available to them to achieve desired outcomes. But schools and districts, like all organizations, incorporate both rational and irrational features. The combination of these features defines the culture of the school or district: the customary ways of doing things that can range from highly collaborative and productive to highly toxic and dysfunctional.
Fortunately, school cultures are rarely toxic. Nevertheless, as Barth (2002) cautions, schools with less healthy cultures place students at risk. They have this effect because their practices are based on misunderstandings about what students can accomplish—a phenomenon that Baruti Kafele (2013) refers to as the “attitude gap.” According to Kafele, productive cultures – cultures that support high learning among all students – employ educators who believe in and hold high expectations for students, care about students, relate to students as individuals, cultivate excellent performance through supportive learning environments, and connect school learning in responsive ways to the prior experiences of students. Such schools and districts might be said to have “inclusive cultures.”