School climate, the quality and character of schools, affects the life and learning of students. Research shows that school climate matters and sustained positive school climate is associated with positive youth development, effective risk prevention and health promotion, reduced bullying and harassment behavior, greater student self-knowledge and reflection, increased cultural awareness, student learning and academic achievement, increased graduation rates and teacher retention.
Schools can provide the leadership and effective engagement strategies to effectively integrate and sustain quality school climates to ensure students experience the best conditions for learning. In 2013 the National School Climate Center (NSCC) created a set of 11 School Climate Practices for Implementation and Sustainability Briefs to identify specific strategies schools can adopt to create and sustain quality school climate.
The following recommendations, gleaned from the School Climate Practices for Implementation and Sustainability Briefs are still applicable to schools throughout the US as part of school climate and education reform.
- Raise awareness of social climate characteristics, standards and research to ensure agreement by education stakeholders.
- Adopt school climate standards to ensure system-wide integration with focus on safety, relationships, teaching and learning and physical environment.
- Create policies that allocate resources to effectively implement school climate assessments, analyses and improvement.
- Conduct regular assessments of school climate using research-based tools.
- Identify specific intended outcomes and impacts of school climate reform and effective assessment measures.
- Focus on shared leadership and diverse perspectives as they provide the foundation for sustainability.
- Create leadership opportunities for all students to contribute to school climate reform.
- Promote professional development that increases school climate knowledge and skills through professional learning communities.
- Integrate instructional strategies that engage students in developing academic, social, civic and career competencies.
- Support positive relationships among students, among adults and between students and adults in school and community.
The focus on school climate has increased since the release of the School Climate Practices for Implementation and Sustainability Briefs demonstrated by:
- ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative’s focus and resources on school climate
- Peter DeWitt’s, an international expert on collaborative leadership, advocacy and resources on school climate
- National School Climate Center’s continuous review of research with implications for practice
School climate is a critical component of high-quality education and should be measured, enhanced and a core element of each school’s accountability system. The 10 recommendations above can assist advocates to effectively integrate and sustain the quality and character of a school most effective to support each student’s positive development.
For more information on the School Climate Practices for Implementation and Sustainability Briefs, please click here.