School Conditions and Climate refers to the character and quality of school life. The goal is to create conditions at every school that foster a welcoming, inclusive, and academically challenging environment. However, most of the components that support positive school conditions and climates are not easily measured or uniform from one location to another.
CLIMATE INCLUDES HEALTH, SAFETY, DISCIPLINE AND CONNECTEDNESS
Positive school conditions and climate ensure that all the people in the school community—including students, staff, and families—feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and that they feel supported, connected to the school, and engaged in learning and teaching. Those feelings can be evaluated.
The state expects school districts to survey their students, staff members and parents to measure their feelings about the quality of the school climate.
Surveys of students (which are mandatory) can measure the extent to which all students, and students from different backgrounds, report that:
- they attend a school where they feel cared for, valued, safe, and connected
- they have access to proper facilities and resources at their school.
Surveys of parents and families can measure whether they:
- feel welcome and appreciated
- have a voice and agency as they support their student’s education.
Surveys of school staff provide a measure of whether they believe they:
- work in supportive, collegial environments
- are provided with necessary tools and resources for their work
- are able to both promote and assist in the creation of a healthy school environment.
The state also uses the California School Dashboard to report school and district suspension rates and how they have changed over time.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK ABOUT SCHOOL CLIMATE
- How do we assess student needs and measure school climate on our campus? Do we participate in statewide surveys such as the California Healthy Kids Survey, the California School Climate Survey or the California School Parent Survey that measure school climate? Do we regularly identify opportunities for staff training? Are we making sure surveys on campus-wide issues and concerns are given to families in their home languages and in multiple formats?
- In what ways do parents, teachers, students, school staff and community members work together to create a safe, respectful and inclusive campus? Do we have an anti-bullying policy or program? Are mental-health services and counselors available for all students? Is there a school-based health center or other access to health services? What additional programs and services are provided to serve vulnerable children?
- Does our school have a clear, written procedure to resolve concerns or problems? Do we have a conflict resolution program? Have school rates for suspensions and expulsions decreased? Are teachers and staff trained in alternatives to school discipline such as a campus-wide restorative justice program that addresses the issues, needs and obligations of all students?
- How do we engage and support all parents and families in the school community? Are school leaders, teachers and staff trained to identify potential student needs, facilitating communication and reaching out to families in all neighborhoods? Do we provide school activities and events at low or no cost for students and their families?
- Are local schools a “hub” of community life? Do we have partnerships with local agencies and community organizations to support student success? Are school facilities open year-round for broad community use? Do children have a welcoming and safe space before and after school?
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT SCHOOL CLIMATE
- “I never thought anyone at school noticed if I was there or not, but one day I got asked why I was absent from class and it made me feel like someone cared about me.”
- “We decided as a staff to make it a practice of greeting all students when they walked into the classroom, and notice something about each of them.”
- “My son was being bullied and it turned into a fight. The principal brought us parents, our children and their class together. We talked until we got to the root of the problem. Teachers received training to look out for students experiencing troubles at home and bullying behavior, and how to use suspension or expulsion as a last resort.”
Find out how your district is meeting this state priority.
- See the official report at caschooldashboard.org
- Check out your school district’s website to find its Local Control Accountability Plan
- California Department of Education
- WestEd Healthy Kids Survey
- California School-Based Health Alliance
- California Endowment Page on School Climate.