Making Sense of School Climate and What to Do About It - Part 2: Climate Assessment

November 17 2014


  • Rick Phillips, Founder, Community Matters
    Rick Phillips
    Founder, Community Matters
  • William Grace Frost, Former Director of Strategic Relations, Community Matters
    William Grace Frost
    Former Director of Strategic Relations, Community Matters

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. Part 1 focused on how schools can get beyond theory and concepts to effective implementation of best practices. Here, in Part 2, we’ll explore the importance of starting your transformation processes with a climate assessment.

An assessment is a step-by-step process that assists school leaders in determining what’s working, what’s not and what’s missing in their current climate efforts. Using a thorough analysis process provides the foundational information necessary for effective planning and implementation of the many climate mandates and initiatives that schools are expected to manage.

There are many types of assessment that educators are familiar with – teacher evaluations, student testing, classroom observations, financial audits, and school- and district-wide academic assessments, to name a few. In this case we are referring to a district-wide climate assessment. Careful consideration of the size, scope, demographics, data trends, community perceptions and special circumstances of a district should all be taken into account before designing the assessment tools and procedures.

In any case, assessments for school climate should include all key stakeholders – school board, administration, staff, students, parents and community – with a focus on these aspects:

  • How values are aligned or not within the community,
  • The importance of safety and security,
  • Effectiveness of current policies and procedures,
  • Fairness and consistency in enforcement,
  • Programs and services currently being used and their effect,
  • Quality of communication and depth of relationship among and between stakeholders

The assessment itself should include a comprehensive review of:

  • The school board’s discipline policies and procedures,
  • The safety, discipline and suspension practices of the schools,
  • The Student / Parent Handbook,
  • All current and recent-past climate improvement programs, services and initiatives undertaken, and their results,
  • The results of recent student, staff and/or parent climate surveys, and
  • Overall discipline and suspension data;

Additionally, one-on-one interviews and/or focus groups with key stakeholders, policy-influencers and the heads of other youth-serving organizations in the community can be conducted to gather even greater perspective.

A thorough assessment such as described here will result in the formulation of a set of findings upon which recommendations for strengthening and improving climate efforts can be built.

In our next blog, Part 3 of the series, we’ll focus on the importance of building stakeholder readiness and buy-in before any attempts are made to implement new programs or initiatives.

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