A case study of the culture of a high achieving suburban midwestern junior high school

Cass, Harrison
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The major purpose of this study was to examine the culture, i.e., the values, beliefs, and norms, in a high achieving junior high school. The study was designed to paint a portrait of the school's culture;The study took place from September 1985 through June 1986. It included 16 days on-site distributed one to three days a month over the ten-month period. An ethnographic case study approach using observation, interviews, and artifact analysis was utilized;The school chosen for the study was Indian Hills Junior High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. The school is located in a middle to upper middle class community and has a consistent history of high academic achievement. To confirm the school's positive climate a survey was given to the staff. Once the positive climate was confirmed observations, intensive interviews, and analysis of artifacts uncovered six dominant themes which permeated the school's culture;As a result of the study the researcher formulated six assumptions about strong positive school cultures which are based upon those dominant themes: (1) The major force shaping the culture is the leadership provided by the principal, (2) A widely-shared value that people are important has a powerful effect upon the culture, (3) A positive learning climate is important in the culture, (4) A sense of pride is extremely important to staff and students in developing the culture, (5) Staff autonomy and intrapreneurship seem to have an uplifting effect on the culture, (6) The culture is a mixture of loosely coupled and tightly coupled systems;The results of the study are presented in three journal articles which richly describe the values, beliefs, and norms of the staff and students at Indian Hills. The articles provide insight as to how the school's strong positive culture was developed.