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Building Culture Back Better

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Building Culture Back Better investigates ways to address the ongoing realities of COVID-19 and systemic racism—and to rebuild school culture to be more effective, equitable, and joyful for scholars and educators. It aggregates strategies and insights from on-the-ground practitioners in school communities across the country as they focus on preparing for the 2021–22 academic year

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As schools begin to open for the 2020-21 year, educators across the country are looking for new ways to meet students’ complex and evolving needs. Many educators are placing a special focus on how to help students cope with the effects of COVID-19, racial oppression, and economic inequalities, and how to help students struggling with these challenges learn and thrive. 


LAB’s new “Building Culture Back Better Guide” provides actionable resources that any school can use to generate and modify relevant, evidence-based solutions to longstanding challenges in education that have been amplified by the pandemic. These include social-emotional learning techniques, success coaching, and more practices that can help schools create a learning environment where every student can thrive.


The guide includes insights from numerous education innovators: 


The “Building Culture Back Better Guide” distills these insights into eight recommendations aimed at helping schools serve their students, staff, and families after a difficult year: 


  1. Strengthen connections with a safe, predictable, and joyful return to school.

  2. Establish and support adult culture in schools.

  3. Design for belonging to create an equitable school culture.

  4. Rebuild connections to yourself and others to cultivate belonging and purpose. 

  5. Support psychological safety at school.

  6. Transform school culture to center positivity.

  7. Reestablish an ethic of excellence.

  8. Create a thriving school culture through vision, empathy, and effort.


This school year presents an opportunity for schools to reinvent themselves, setting high expectations for students and recommitting to equity, inclusiveness, and a thriving school culture. With the tools in this guide, schools can address the myriad needs within their community of students, families, and staff. When students and staff feel safe and known, they can engage productively in their own growth, and school becomes a place of growth, healing, and community.

Shatoya Ward, Principal

Purdue Polytechnic HS, Englewood Campus

Cecile Kidd, Bursar 

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools

Chuck Jones, Middle School Director

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools

Jasmine Tucker, Deputy High School Director

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools

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