School climate, the quality and character of schools, affects student learning, development and success. 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;
  • Increased student self-knowledge and reflection;
  • Enhanced cultural awareness, student learning and academic achievement;
  • Increased graduation rates; and
  • Teacher retention.

The National School Climate Center ( conducts and analyses research on the impact of school climate, creates methods to accurately measure school climate and assists schools to implement a school climate improvement process.

In 2013 the National School Climate Center published the School Climate Practices for Implementation and Sustainability Briefs identifying evidence-based best practices for schools to consider, adopt and/or adapt to support school climate reform. I created the following checklist from this resource to guide schools through that process.

  • 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 a 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 the school and community.

I encourage school climate advocates to consider these steps to create the conditions for positive student development as well as teacher, staff and administrator engagement.

For more information on the School Climate Practices for Implementation and Sustainability Briefs go to

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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