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At the Rowland Foundation, we believe that the most important measure of a school's success is its culture & climate. While conventional measures such as standardized testing, advanced placement enrollment, college admissions, graduation and dropout rates are frequently cited data points, nothing is more important than a school's culture & climate. We believe that a school's culture & climate are the root cause of a wide range of student outcomes. The Rowland Foundation's mission focuses on school culture & climate because these factors profoundly impact students' growth and success in their formative years.

While culture & climate are closely related, they are not the same thing. Culture consists of the shared values, expectations, and ways of being in a school community. Climate is the way members of the school community perceive and experience these norms.

Culture & climate are often believed to be subjective, ineffable even. However, nothing is more tangible, more real, than a school community's culture & climate.

"You can tell a school's culture & climate as soon as you walk in the door," Rowland Foundation Founder & Past Executive Director Chuck Scranton often says. Culture & climate can be seen, heard, and felt everywhere in a school. Culture & climate show up in the messages and artwork on the walls, and in the way physical spaces are laid out, assigned, and controlled. You can tell a school's culture & climate by hearing how students speak to each other, how teachers and students interact, and how the "support staff" are addressed. A school's culture & climate are defined by the types of questions being asked, by the books on display, and by the way the course catalog grants access (or doesn't) to learning. Culture & climate are also revealed in the way that classrooms are configured, in the assignment of different wings of the school to different purposes, and in the ease with which school community members can pass through these spaces, or even access natural light and the outdoors.

At the Rowland Foundation, we believe that a healthy, positive school culture & climate are reflected in the following benchmarks:
Erica Wallstrom, 2014 Rowland Fellow
"The Rowland Fellowship is a truly unique experience that continues to provide Rutland High School educators with flexible scheduling, financial support, and inspiring networks, making innovation in our school not only a possibility, but a reality." — Erica Wallstrom, 2014 Rowland Fellow, Rutland High School, Science Teacher
  • Teachers are lifelong learners who continuously seek out professional learning.
  • Teachers know their work makes a difference in the lives of all of their students.
  • Teachers learn from each other, and their students, on a daily basis.
  • Students and staff feel a sense of belonging and pride in their school.
  • Students and staff experience joy in their school day.
  • Students and staff voices are heard and shape the direction of their school.
  • Students and staff demonstrate an ethic of care for each other.
  • Students and staff are able to show up as their authentic selves.
  • Students show agency in their learning.
  • There are high expectations for all students.
  • There is a sense of community within the school.

The Rowland Foundation believes that systemic change, the kind that can alter a school's culture and enhance its climate for learning, is derived from visionary leadership within the school. Deep and lasting change of this kind, cannot be mandated, downloaded, or implemented in a linear fashion-it must be co-constructed with all stakeholders in a school community. Transformational change comes from meaningful, sustained collaboration between teachers, students, school leaders, and local community partners.

The Rowland Foundation believes that teacher leadership, innovation, and collaboration lead to positive change. To this end the Rowland Foundation will offer up to six fellowships to Vermont secondary or middle grades teachers each year. The Foundation seeks proposals in which a teacher and the principal/head of school form a clear partnership to improve an element of the school which will profoundly impact students by enhancing the institution's culture and climate. The Rowland Fellow will assume the key leadership role in the initiative's development and realization with support from the Rowland Foundation and its Executive Director.

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