ERIC Identifier: ED435946 Publication Date: 1999-00-00
Author: Purkey, William Watson Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Creating Safe Schools through Invitational Education. ERIC
When asked what they expect from their schools, most parents, teachers,
administrators, and students will answer: "I want my school to be safe."
Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that schools are not as safe as we would
like. The National Center for Education Statistics 1998 Report showed that one
in ten schools in their sample reported at least one violent crime over the past
year. Fifty-seven percent reported experiencing at least one crime incident that
was reported to law enforcement officials (Morrissey, 1998).
To promote school safety, educators have relied primarily on traditional law
enforcement methods, including metal detectors, security guards, closed circuit
television, locking all doors and windows except one or two entrances, and
conducting "shake-down" searches and locker checks. These law enforcement
methods rely heavily on surveillance, penalties, and punishments, such as
suspensions, expulsions, alternative school placement, arrests, and fines placed
on parents or guardians.
While sometimes effective, traditional law enforcement methods applied to
schools carry major negative side effects. These include a significant financial
burden, a reduction of time for classroom instruction, and a decline in teacher
and student morale. Metal detectors, security guards, surveillance cameras,
locker checks, and body searches create a pervasive atmosphere of apprehension
among faculty, staff, students, and parents. The purpose of this digest is to
present an alternate approach to creating and maintaining safe schools called
"Invitational Education" (Purkey & Novak, 1996; Juhnke & Purkey, 1995;
Shoffner & Vacc, 1999.)
Invitational Education provides a framework for
making schools a more exciting, satisfying, and enriching experience for
everyone - all students, all faculty and staff, and all visitors. This framework
goes beyond reforming or restructuring; its goal is to transform the fundamental
character of the school. Invitational Education asserts that everybody and
everything in and around schools adds to, or subtracts from, school safety. It
centers on four guiding principles of respect, trust, optimism, and
Respect: Everyone in the school is able, valuable, and responsible and is to be
Trust: Education is a cooperative, collaborative activity where process is as
important as product.
Optimism: People possess relatively untapped potential in all areas of
worthwhile human endeavor.
Intentionality: Safe schools are best realized by creating and maintaining
inviting places, policies, processes, and programs and by people who are
intentionally inviting with themselves and others, personally and
professionally. By centering itself on respect, trust, optimism, and
Invitational Education provides a common language of transformation and a
consistent theory of practice.
HOW INVITATIONAL EDUCATION WORKS
The "Five P's" of
Invitational Education, standing for people, places, policies, programs, and
processes, provide the means to address the global nature and symbolic structure
of the school. It expands the educative process by applying steady and
continuous pressure from a number of points, much like a starfish conquers
THE STARFISH ANALOGY
Starfish live to eat oysters. To
defend itself, the oyster has two stout shells that fit tightly together and are
held in place by a powerful muscle. When a starfish locates an oyster, it places
itself on the top shell. Then gently, gradually, and continuously, the starfish
uses each of its five points in turn to keep steady pressure on the one oyster
muscle. While one point pulls, the other four rest. The single oyster muscle,
while incredibly powerful, gets no rest. Inevitably and irresistibly, the oyster
shells open and the starfish has its meal. Steady and continuous pressure from a
number of points can overcome the powerful muscle of the oyster, and by analogy,
the biggest challenge in schools, that of school safety. Here is how the
Invitational Education starfish looks when the "Five P" approach is applied.
THE FIVE POWERFUL P'S
The following activities illustrate
how Invitational Education is woven into the fabric of the school.
Faculty and staff work as a school family. Activities include training in stress
reduction and conflict management, long-term relationships between faculty and
students, courteous staff, and respect for everyone. Special attention is given
to personal grooming and professional dress.
Careful attention is given to the physical environment, including adequate
lighting, well-maintained buildings and grounds, clean rest rooms, attractive
classrooms and cafeterias, and displays celebrating student accomplishments.
Ways are found to enhance the physical environment of the school, no matter how
old the building.
Attendance, grading, promotion, discipline and other policies are developed and
maintained within a circle of respect for everyone involved. Families are kept
informed through newsletters, bulletins, phone calls and meetings. Every school
policy is democratically developed, easy to understand, and made available to
Among the many programs that help to create safe schools are community outreach,
wellness, and enrichment opportunities for everyone in the school. Programs that
involve parents are strongly encouraged. Guidance counselors play a central role
in arranging beneficial programs.
Process is the way in which things are done in the school. A democratic ethos is
valued along with an academic orientation. All activities and procedures are
designed to honor and include everyone. Ideas, suggestions, and concerns are
welcomed in the inviting school.
To date, Invitational Education has been successfully applied to over 140
schools throughout North America. The success of these programs has been
documented and described in professional research articles (Clover &
Alexander, 1992; Stanley & Purkey, 1994; Purkey & Strahan, 1995). For
detailed information, please contact the International Alliance for Invitational
Education, c/o School of Education, The University of North Carolina at
Greensboro, P.O. Box 26171, Greensboro, NC 27402-6171.
Rather than relying on one program, one policy,
or one process, Invitational Education addresses the total zeitgeist, the spirit
within a school. It has a wider focus of application than traditional efforts to
make schools safe. It is concerned with more than grades, attendance, academic
achievement, discipline, test scores, and even student self-esteem. It is
concerned with the skills of becoming a decent and productive citizen in a
Cloer, T. & Alexander, W. A. Jr. (1992).
Inviting teacher characteristics and teacher effectiveness: A preliminary study.
Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice, 1 (1), 31-42.
Juhnke, G. A. & Purkey, W. W. (1995, February). An invitational approach
to preventing violence in schools. Counseling Today, pp. 50, 52, 55.
Morrissey, M. (1998, June). Mitigating school violence requires a system-wide
effort. Counseling Today, pp. 36-37.
Purkey, W. W. & Novak, J. (1996). Inviting school success: A self-concept
approach to teaching, learning, and democratic practice, 3rd Ed. New York:
Purkey, W. W. & Strahan, D. (1995). School transformation through
Invitational Education. Research in the Schools, 2 (2), 1-6.
Shoffner, M. F. & Vacc, N. A. (1999). Psychometric analysis of the
Inviting School Safety Survey. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and
Development, 32, 66-74.
Stanley, P. H. & Purkey, W. W. (1994). Student self-concept-as-learner:
Does Invitational Education make a difference? Research in the Schools, 1, (2),
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