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Report: Workbook for Improving School Climate: Using your California School Climate Health and Learning Survey data.

Categories

Culture: School, Reform: School improvement

Authors

WestED

Published

2012

Abstract

This Workbook is a companion resource to the California School Climate Health and Learning Survey System (Cal–
SCHLS) which includes the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), the California School Climate Survey for staff(CSCS),
and the California School Parent Surve (CSPS). The CHKS, CSCS, and the CSPS contain a wealth of data that can be
used to inform decisions meant to foster school improvement efforts, improve school climate, and enhance student
engagement and performance and staff job satisfaction and retention. The impetus for this practical tool was the growing
understanding that school community members sometimes experience dificulty distilling the key indings from their
CHKS and CSCS data.
The original Workbook—Workbook for Improving School Climate and Closing the Achievement Gap—focused on the
needs of students and staff from culturally and ethnically diverse background and the needs of students and staff involved
in migrant education and special education. To expand the usability of the workbook we have added a School Climate
focus in two areas: 1) Supports and Engagement; and 2) School Safety and Substance Use. Within in the area of Supports
and Engagement we have identiied three sub–areas: 1) Caring Relationships and High Expectations; 2) Opportunities
for Meaningful Participation; and 3) School Connectedness. Within the area of School Safety and Substance Use we have
identiied three sub–areas: 1) Violence and Safety Perceptions; 2) Victimization; and 3) Substance Use.
Working with school staff throughout California, this Workbook was developed and then reined over time. It is meant
to help members of school communities use the data from these valuable surveys to create supportive school climates
that enhance professional outcomes for staff, academic and social–emotional outcomes for students, and involvement
outcomes for parents. In particular, this workbook is designed to assist local community members in their efforts to close
the racial/ethnic achievement gap and to strengthen special education, migrant education, and other educational services
for culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse students.

WHAT IS SCHOOL CLIMATE
School climate is a broad term that commonly describes a variety of dimensions that characterize the “spirit” of the
school. Most commonly, school climate refers to the conditions or quality of the learning environment, which are created
and maintained by the values, beliefs, interpersonal relationships, and the physical setting shared by individuals within
the school community. The elements that comprise a school’s climate are diverse, ranging from the quality of teacher–
student interactions to characteristics of the school’s physical and organizational structure, as well as perceived safety,
and teaching and learning practices.1 Communities in schools with positive climates value diversity of all types (e.g.,
race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, religion), encourage shared experiences and purpose, promote transparent
and unbiased norms and expectations, and provide numerous opportunities for growth and achievement.2 For more
information on the dimensions of school climate, please refer to this Workbook’s companion text, “Making Sense of
School Climate: Using the California School Climate Health and Learning (Cal–SCHLS) Survey System to Inform Your
School Improvement Efforts.”
WHY SCHOOL CLIMATE MATTERS
A growing body of research provides support for the impact of school climate factors on student academic, behavioral, and
social–emotional outcomes. Students’ perceptions of positive school climate are related to a variety of school adjustment
indicators, including academic motivation and school connectedness, attitudes toward learning, and conlict resolution
skills.3 Students who attend schools with positive climates engage in fewer risk–taking and violent behaviors4, have
fewer discipline referrals and school suspensions5, and report feeling safer at school and more willing to report potential
threats to safety.6 Moreover, children who perceive positive climates at their schools achieve higher scores on measures of
academic achievement—including tests in language, reading, and math, and overall grade point average.7
Staff members also beneit from positive school climates. Teachers who perceive that they work in a positive school climate
are more willing to implement new curricula and interventions.8 What is more, these teachers report higher rates of job
satisfaction and lower rates of burnout and they tend to stay in the teaching profession. 9
MISSING IN SCHOOL REFORM
While evidence is mounting that positive school climates are related to improvements in student outcomes, school climate
continues to be a missing element in efforts to improve student academic performance and well–being. School climate
or culture remains, in the words of Jerald (2006), “the hidden curriculum” and “possibly the least discussed element in
practical conversations about how to improve student achievement.” School reform strategies have primarily focused on
improving academic curriculum, instruction, and governance. While such changes are undoubtedly essential for turning
around low–performing schools, they are typically insuficient due to the fact that they largely ignore the school climate and
related learning barriers that impede student motivation and academic engagement.
ASSESSING DATA RELATED TO CLOSING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP, MIGRANT EDUCATION & SPECIAL
EDUCATION
As part of the state’s efforts to close the achievement gap, another purpose of this workbook is to assist schools in
understanding their data related to race and ethnicity as well as migrant education and special education status. The
achievement gap between white students and other ethnic groups as well as between English learners and native English
speakers, socioeconomically disadvantaged and non–disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities compared to
students without disabilities is a pervasive issue in many, if not all, of California’s schools (www.closingtheachievementgap.
org). The achievement gap is a fact that California simply cannot afford to accept—morally, economically, or socially.

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