Leveraging your LCAP Funds to Improve Your School Climate

January 10 2018


Here in California, school district’s LCAP plans must focus on eight priority areas that help all students succeed and thrive. The following eight areas positively impact overall student success:

  • Basic Services — Providing all students with access to fully credentialed teachers in their subject areas, as well as instructional materials that align with state standards, and safe, properly maintained school facilities.
  • Implementation of State Standards — Ensuring school programs and services enable all students, including English learners, to access California’s academic content and performance standards, including Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Math, Next Generation Science Standards, and English Language Development Standards.
  • Course Access — Ensuring all students have access to a broad course of study in all required subject areas, including math, social science, science, visual and performing arts, health, physical education, career and technical education and others, that prepares them for college and careers, regardless of what school they attend or where they live.
  • Student Achievement — Improving achievement and outcomes for all students, as measured in multiple ways, such as test scores, English proficiency and college and career preparedness.
  • Other Student Outcomes — Measuring other important indicators of student performance in all required areas of study.
  • Student Engagement — Providing students with engaging programs and course work that keeps them in school, as measured in part by attendance rates, dropout rates and graduation rates.
  • Parent Involvement — Efforts by the school district and schools to seek input from all parents, and to engage parents in decision-making, as well as promoting parent participation in programs that meet the needs of their students and all students. (See the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships Assessment Guide for suggested ways to measure progress.)
  • School Climate — Factors both inside and outside the classroom that impact student success such as health, safety, student discipline and school connectedness, as measured in part by suspension and expulsion rates, and surveys of students, teachers and parents.

Of these eight priorities, Community Matters has been committed to providing support to schools by focusing on the following three:

Student Engagement

Student engagement means providing students with programs, course work and opportunities both in and out of the classroom that motivates them and keeps them in school. Research further shows that when students are healthy in mind and body, they are more engaged, miss less school, focus better in class, and are more likely to graduate. Different types of teaching methods can also keep more students engaged. Students look forward to attending school when they feel a community of caring adults and peers support their success. Some ways schools can measure student engagement include assessing:

  • School attendance rates
  • The number of students who are chronically absent (when students are absent for more than 10 percent of school year for any reason).
  • Middle school dropout and graduation rates.
  • High school dropout and graduation rates.
  • The number and types of student leadership groups, on-campus clubs and extra- curricular activities available.
  • The number of students participating in student leadership groups, on-campus clubs and extra-curricular activities available.
  • The number of classes taught that provide students with multiple ways of learning.

School Climate

School climate means factors, both inside and outside the classroom, that impact student success. This includes student health, safety and discipline as well as how connected all students feel to their school. Every child is entitled to a safe and peaceful environment that promotes learning. All students need to feel respected, included, socially and emotionally cared for, and expected to succeed. Teachers, administrators, school staff, parents, students and community members must work together to create such environments on all campuses.

Some ways schools can measure school climate include assessing:

  • Student, parent, teacher and school staff surveys.
  • Student suspension and expulsion rates.
  • Student attendance rates.
  • Evaluations of programs and services.
  • The availability of school nurses and mental health counselors to support students.
  • Opportunities to engage teachers, staff, parents and students in “learning community conversations” that generate ideas and solutions for improving school climate.

Parent Involvement:

How are schools maintaining connection to the parents? Do teachers, counselors and administrators communicate and connect with parents about the positives regarding their student, or is communication strictly limited to when there is conflict and punishment? Just as schools must have asset-building adults for the students to feel welcome, safe, and included, parents need to also feel welcome, safe and included in the schools. Do teachers provide their email addresses or phone numbers to parents to open up multiple lines of communication? Are there translators available to encourage this despite language differences? Instead of having a parent’s night where teachers or counselors ‘train’ parents, begin by listening and finding out what assets they already have and encourage them to bring these forward.

Here are some findings from the 2014 NBC State of Parenting Survey that provides some insights to share with staff and families:

“Children with families who spend time together are often more successful in school, less likely to engage in violent behavior, and better able to adapt to life’s changes. Despite the 24/7 digital world today’s parents are raising their children in, 51% of parents say they spend more time with their children than their parents did with them.” 

We know that resilience and agency are strong preventative qualities against bullying, and parents have a large part to play in how they themselves deal with conflict (modeling), and how they encourage their children to manage conflict. The more open communication is modeled in the family, the more likely youth will speak up when they experience or witness mistreatment, and ask for what they need to change the situation.

Best practices around good parent involvement look less like parents storming the classrooms and fighting their students’ fights, and more like parents sticking around during pick-ups to chat with teachers or other parents, or being able to send an email checking in on assignments to support their child’s learning. Equally important is parents taking time to check in regularly with their children, asking about their day, and really listening to what they have to say.

LCAP provides funding to support vital factors for providing optimal learning experiences for California’s students. When schools develop and allocate resources to support the three priorities identified above, they have set in motion actions that over time can truly transform our school climates and help students to succeed and thrive.

Rick Phillips is the founder and former Executive Director of Community Matters.

Community Matters offers programs and services to assist schools in improving school climate, engaging students and staff to create safer schools where all students feel safe, welcome and included. For more information, see our Programs & Services page.

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