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Trust as the Foundation for School Improvement

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

A trusting environment is essential for organizational success. Trust is just as important in schools. Research conducted by two University of Chicago professors demonstrates the beneficial impact a trusting environment has on school improvement.

In this research, Anthony S. Bryk and Barbara Schnieider studied 12 Chicago elementary schools over a six year period in the 1990s. The research showed that in schools where teachers reported a high level of trust between themselves and principals and among the teaching staff members, test scores were higher than in schools where effective trust may not have existed. The study concluded "a broad base of trust across a school community lubricates much of a school's day-to-day functioning and is a critical resource as local leaders embark on ambitious improvement plans."

Information on the Research Study

Trusting School Community Linked to Student Gains (registration required)
An Education Week article about the study.

Russell Sage Foundation
A link to the full study.

Since a trusting environment is an important ingredient for school improvement, what can school administrators do to nurture trust within their schools? Interested administrators may wish to review the following resources for further guidance.

Additional Resources

Servant Leadership

As noted at its website, "Servant-Leadership is a practical philosophy which supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions. Servant-leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment. Servant-leaders may or may not hold formal leadership positions. The link is to the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, an international organization with the goal to help people understand the principles and practices of servant-leadership and to nurture colleagues and institutions by providing a focal point and opportunities to share thoughts and ideas on servant-leadership."

Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace

Dennis Reina and Michelle Reina, authors of the book, Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective Relationships in Your Organization, offer an approach to building trust in the workplace. The link is to a review of the book.

The School Culture

These resources from the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory explore how organizational culture impacts a school's performance.

Is Your School's Culture Toxic or Positive?

This article from Education World discusses the impact of organizational culture on a school.

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and are intended for general reference purposes only. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education or the Center, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Some resources on this site require Adobe Acrobat Reader. This website archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.