School Climate Research

Many educational stakeholders - administrators, teachers, parents,- have long believed that the social-emotional climate of a school directly impacts its results, as measured by attendance, achievement, discipline incidents, graduation rates, and the behavior of its students. Over the past several decades, social scientists have helped to deepen our understanding of what climate is, confirmed its pivotal role in educational success, and begun to shed light on how to foster it positively in order to produce the results we all want. Highlights of that research are presented below.

Social-emotional climate is the foundation of our work with schools and other organizations.

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The School Climate Challenge

Narrowing the Gap Between School Climate Research and School Climate Policy, Practice Guidelines and Teacher Education Policy

"Over the last two decades, there has been a growing appreciation that school climate, the quality and character of school life, fosters - or undermines - children's development, learning and achievement. Research confirms what teachers and parents have claimed for decades: a safe and supportive school environment, in which students have positive social relationships and are respected, engaged in their work and feel competent, matters. This whitepaper includes:

  • Background information and data on the history of school climate research and the current status of school climate policy, practice guidelines and teacher education requirements and resources
  • Main principles or goals for school climate policy
  • Assumptions that undergird school climate policy, practice and teacher education and professional development programs
  • Challenges and changing needs that call for policy, practice and teacher education reform along with a series of recommendations that address the different challenges and needs
  • Summary of recommendations for policymakers, practice leaders and teacher educators." (from page 4 of The School Climate Challenge)

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School Climate Research Summary

This brief from the Center for Social and Emotional Education summarizes school climate research that has with few exceptions been published in peer-reviewed journals. This research attests to the importance of climate, and its influence on many factors, including: physical, social, emotional, and intellectual safety; positive youth development, mental health and healthy relationships; higher graduation rates; school connectedness and engagement; academic achievement; and teacher retention. It is divided into five sections: safety, relationships, teaching and learning, the institutional environment, and school reform. Download the brief

Connectedness and School Climate

When students feel connected to their schools - they feel cared for and feel like they belong at school - they are less prone to violence, substance abuse, and early sexual activity. What causes connectedness? These researchers examined data from more than 75,000 students in 127 schools and found that positive classroom management climates and tolerant discipline policies are among the four variables that promote connectedness.

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School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth

"Efforts to improve child and adolescent health typically have featured interventions designed to address specific health risk behaviors, such as tobacco use, alcohol and drug use, violence, gang involvement, and early sexual initiation. However, results from a growing number of studies suggest that greater health impact might be achieved by also enhancing protective factors that help children and adolescents avoid multiple behaviors that place them at risk for adverse health and educational outcomes. Enhancing protective factors also might buffer children and adolescents from the potentially harmful effects of negative situations and events, such exposure to violence. Protective factors include personal characteristics such as a positive view of one?s future; life conditions such as frequent parental presence in the home at key times (e.g., after school, at dinner time); and behaviors such as active participation in school activities. School connectedness is a particularly promising protective factor. This publication defines and describes the components of school connectedness and identifies specific actions that schools can take to increase school connectedness." (from page 3)

This publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a synthesis of research from the fields of education, health, psychology and sociology. It identifies policies and practices that demonstrated an impact on students? sense of connectedness to school, and includes six evidence-based strategies that could be implemented to increase connectedness, along with specific guidance on implementing those strategies.

Download the full Paper or Download a summary article

National School Climate Standards

These emerging standards present a vision and framework for creating a positive and sustainable school climate. They complement national standards for content, leadership, and professional development as well as the Parent Teacher Association's National Standards for Family School Partnerships Standards. Download the National School Climate Standards.

Ohio School Climate Guidelines

Recognizing that "creating environments where every student feels welcomed, respected and motivated to learn" is not just a good idea but an obligation of educational institutions AND a key to successfully fulfilling their core mission, the State of Ohio has issued voluntary guidelines that describe the many facets of school climate. They are designed to help school leaders assess the climate of their schools, and make measurable progress toward benchmarks.

The nine guidelines cover many aspects of education, including overall operations, school community partnerships, continuous improvement, real and perceived thereat sot safety, students? sense of belonging, skills and involvement of parents, involving students in decision-making, and the quality of school food service. Through 36 specific benchmarks, they provide more than 200 concrete measures like:

  •     4C: Policies and procedures have been developed to effectively improve communication and resolve conflict among staff, staff and administration, staff and families, and staff and students.
  •     5E: Policies and procedures are in place regarding positive ways to prevent violence, resolve conflict and effectively deal with bullying, harassment, and violent acts.

Ohio Department of Education, "Ohio School Climate Guidelines"

School Climate Survey

Our School Climate Survey is designed to probe into the social-emotional climate that is typically visible only to students, and can yield information about:

  •     what kinds of mistreatment are common; how students really do treat one another
  •     how often those different kinds of mistreatment happen
  •     where they happen
  •     when they happen

This survey goes beyond simple questions about "bullying" to gain information about exclusion, put-downs, relational aggression, rumors and gossip, as well as threats, fights and weapons on campus. It includes questions about how students feel about reporting information to adults (e.g. about bullying or fights or weapons), and how they feel about other students who make those reports. It also asks about how comfortable they are hanging out with peers who are different, and how wrong they and their peers think certain behaviors are.

Get the School Climate Survey