Paula Mirk

Does Your School Have Integrity?

A few years ago, the Institute for Global Ethics collaborated with the National Association of Independent Schools to examine what exemplary schools were doing to balance attention to academic rigor with attention to the ethical behavior of high school students. A common thread among these selected schools was a collegial collaboration aimed at making adults feel safe, engaged, and inspired at work. (No surprise to learn that this "rubbed off" on students who were also invited to "take an active part in the school improvement process.")

Through this Schools of Integrity research, we learned the imperative of our new, flat world and its relationship to schools: when faculty and staff partner on an equal level with leadership in an ongoing learning and growth process, higher levels of trust and ownership result. That means everybody operates together more efficiently and comfortably, and students can learn more as a result.

What are specific ways to move in that direction? Our Ethical Literacy Learning Community is engaging a range of schools in just that question. These schools are taking steps to deliberately and thoughtfully build a school culture of integrity based on research findings, including (but not limited to):

  • Tone at the Top: Training for leadership in how to model the ethics of the school community and promote these ethics across the school culture.
  • Culture of Open Feedback: Deliberate steps and replicable practices get staff and faculty used to receiving and providing feedback, in a continuous improvement vein. In other words, they become the active learners they expect their students to be.
  • Professional Development from the Ranks: A coordinated process to seek and showcase great practices within the school walls results in individual teachers feeling validated for their hard work and inspires others to innovate.

Check out a specific list of replicable practices that can help move this improvement process forward in your school ... at no extra cost!

Paula Mirk worked at whole child partner the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE) for 17 years. For the majority of her tenure, she oversaw IGE's education department. IGE collaborates with national and international organizations and with school districts large and small to integrate ethical literacy into classroom practice, school culture, and systemic reform. Connect with IGE at

Comments (1)


January 27, 2012

The definition of integrity in this piece (“Does Your School Have Integrity?”) falls short of the comprehensive treatment it deserves. From what I was able to gather from the reading and supporting documents, integrity is synonymous with trust.

In my opinion integrity ranks as the virtue of virtues. That is to say it should be treated as an amalgamation of values including but not limited to honesty, justice, tolerance, responsibility and the many dimensions of altruism.

I would strongly encourage anyone interested in getting a handle on the meaning of integrity to pick up the book written by Stephen L. Carter entitled, (integrity), which was published in 1996 by BasicBooks.

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