Making Sense of School Climate and What To Do About It - Part 1: Moving From Theory to Practice

November 3 2014


In this 5-part series we are laying out a clear and compelling climate roadmap for schools to use to successfully implement school climate transformation. This first part focuses on how schools can get beyond theory and concepts to effective implementation of best practices.

If school climate were a stock, we’d say it’s “a bull market” and encourage you to buy big. Once thought of as a second tier focus not on par with academics, school climate is now understood as a fundamental driver for effective learning to occur. Ensuring that a school is committed to having a positive climate starts with the leaders in charge valuing relationships and connectedness as the essential building blocks for developing a safe, positive and high performing school.

The first step in moving from theory to practice is for educational leaders – school boards, superintendents, district directors and building level administrators – to understand and embrace the importance of school climate. That means decision makers receiving sufficient support and training so they clearly see how climate directly benefits them, connects to their educational outcomes, and directly impacts behavior, attendance and achievement.

Once leaders are “all in”, the next step is to build institution-wide buy-in. This means that the staffs of each school are provided the opportunity to know what the vision and the goals of the change process are before the “ink is dry”. It also means that the staffs of each site are given the chance to express their concerns and questions, along with ideas they want to include, while the plan is still being developed.

Providing opportunities for input and inclusion early in the change process will go a long way in reducing resistance and in gaining staff support. Understanding and utilizing these actions helps ensure that the implementation of the school climate improvement plan will result in success and sustainable change.

In our next blog, Part 2 of the series, we’ll focus on the importance of doing a climate assessment. An assessment assists school leaders in determining what’s working, what’s not, and what’s missing in their current efforts. This process engages stakeholders and provides the necessary information for effective planning and implementation of the many climate mandates and initiatives that schools are managing.

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