"School climate refers to the quality and character of school life. It is based on people’s experiences of school and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures” (NSCC). A positive school climate undergirds academic achievement and creates a supportive context for personalize learning to flourish.
Research suggests that a positive school climate can lead to improved academic outcomes among diverse groups of students (Astor, Benbenisty, & Estrada, 2009; Haahr, Nielsen, Hansen, & Jakobsen, 2005; OECD, 2009), improved motivation to learn (Eccles et. al., 1993), improved staff morale (Vezzuto, 2011), and can serve as a protective factor that supports positive life outcomes for young people (Ortega, Sanchez, Ortega Rivera, & Viejo, 2011).
School Climate Survey
The Office for Safe Schools announces the release of school climate surveys to all school entities in Pennsylvania. The surveys are intended to provide schools with formative and summative climate data for use with needs assessments, program development, and short and long-term planning.
The domains measured by the surveys include:
- Social Emotional Learning
- Student Support
- High Expectations and Academic Rigor/Challenge
- Safe and Respectful School Climate
Surveys are available for grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, staff and faculty, parents, and community members.
The surveys and their results are located on a secure website and are completely confidential. Survey data will be the sole property of the school district. No results will be reviewed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for any reason. The surveys are completely free to all participating school entities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. School entities can choose to administer any and all of the available surveys. Use of the surveys is at the discretion of each school entity. Surveys are available for administration year-round to assist school entities with ease of use and planning of administration.
Steps School Can Take to Improve School Climate
The Office for Safe Schools recommends that schools interested in improving school climate utilize a five-stage improvement planning process to ensure they pursue effective and sustainable strategies to meet the specific needs of their school community. This process requires schools to identify an existing team or convene a new leadership team to oversee the school climate improvement process. This team should include school leaders and teachers, as well as other staff, parents and, at times, students.
The five-stage process involves:
- Readiness: Schools assess and reflect on the school’s capacity, commitment and competence in carrying out comprehensive school climate improvement. This involves reflecting the school’s leadership capacity, vision for school climate and relevant standards.
- Assessment and Analysis: Schools administer a school
climate survey to students, staff, parents and other stakeholder groups.
They also conduct audits of their existing program and data sources in
an effort to understand what is working and what needs improvement.
- Action Planning: Schools begin by developing a short term-action plan to improve school readiness, engage the school community with climate data, and address immediate needs. Later, the team develops a long-term action plan which includes modifications to school programs, policies and practices to support positive school climate.
- Implementation: Actions plans are implemented for a period of time, during which data is collected to support later reflection.
- Reflection: The leadership team and school community reflect on the school’s progress and the leader team’s effectiveness. The school may return to earlier phases of work or modify the existing action plan to ensure continuous improvement.
More information about the school climate improvement process can be found on the National School Climate Center’s (NSCC) website.
School Climate Leadership Initiative
The Pennsylvania Intermediate Units (PAIU), the Office for Safe Schools, Pennsylvania Department Education (PDE), and the National School Climate Center are pleased to be partnering on an effort to increase the capacity of PA educators to lead school climate improvement efforts. The PA School Climate Leadership Initiative (SCLI) is designed to complement and expand schools’ existing efforts to improve student achievement and equitable outcomes by linking those efforts to strategies proven to build positive school climate. At the heart of the SCLI model is an emphasis on building learning communities and networks focused on attending to students’, faculty and parents’ perceptions and experiences of the school through stakeholder engagement and shared leadership. If implemented with fidelity, this effort will bring about environmental changes and positive outcomes, such as: increased student attendance, decreased bullying and harassment, and positive relationships among students, faculty and staff, and improved staff morale. The overall result will be increased academic achievement for all students.
Schools that participate in the SCLI receive training and technical assistance from a designated School Climate Regional Coordinator (SCRC) employed by their IU. The SCRCs support schools in using the five-stage school climate improvement process.
Standards and Guidelines
National School Climate Standards (PDF)
The National School Climate Standards were developed by the National School Climate Council and include five standards and indicators of a positive school climate which are sustained by proactive, responsive and systemic strategies and practices.
PA Keys Early Learning Continuum (PDF)
The PA Early Learning Standards are relevant to schools serving preschool through the second grade. The standards include social and emotional development standards, which can support a more positive school climate.