A critical part of a successful school environment is the climate and culture. This has a direct impact on student learning and achievement outcomes.
School climate focuses on the perceptions, experiences and ideas from all educational stakeholders. School climate can be determined by gathering data from key school personnel like teachers, leadership, students and families. As each of these groups provide feedback, the data collected can be used to inform continuous improvement efforts for the school.
School culture is the values and beliefs that inform the policies, practices and procedures of the school. This includes the expectations around behavior and engagement of students and teachers. School culture is subject to changes as things like leadership change and contingent upon new education practices.
→ Check out our School Culture Audit
Evaluating the school climate and culture helps school leadership monitor progress toward success. Collecting and analyzing school culture data will support academic goals by helping to facilitate classroom environments that will be most effective for students. Measuring school climate and culture not only involves collecting data from school staff and students but also families and the community. This provides a more expansive idea about how the school is perceived from multiple stakeholders.
5 Steps to Assess School Climate and Culture
Identify the Leaders
In planning a process as robust as assessing school climate and culture, leadership is critical. In this instance, school leaders are a great starting point however this process has multiple parts and will occur over a period of time while leveraging multiple people and plans. School leaders should identify key staff members to lead this as a working group. For example, include the school counselor, psychologists, teachers and other personnel with the ability to conduct surveys and analyze data. A planning team would be responsible for improving the school culture by not only facilitating the evaluation process but also supporting the implementation of plans and recommendations.
Necessary skills for the Planning Team
- Awareness of current school climate and culture
- Ability to identify areas of concern in order to inform evaluation metrics
- Provide multiple perspectives about the school learning environment
Identify Key Data Points
Climate and culture data can inform multiple functions within the school. As school leaders and/or planning teams collect this data, they should decide what information they would like to collect and from whom. Some key determinants of school culture including areas like school diversity or discipline environments have a direct impact on student learning, staff experiences and family involvement. The planning team should prepare various methods for the assessment to ensure that all the stakeholders (students, staff, parents, and community members) have the opportunity to participate and provide input. Kickboard created a School Culture Rubric to help schools identify areas to measure within mindsets, systems and practices.
Examples of Areas to Focus
- Engagement – Relationships (teacher-student or student-student)
- Safety – Physical or Emotional Safety
- Environment – How do students and staff feel in the school building?
Determine Resources and Tools
There are a number of ways to evaluate your school’s culture. For example, Kickboard offers a School Culture Audit as a part of their virtual professional development offerings. The Audit provides planning teams and school leadership with recommendations based on the Tier 1 schoolwide behavior support systems. This may include using traditional observational data collection, focus groups and surveys. There are school climate and culture surveys that exist or schools can work on developing one that is internal to their school. With so many survey methods available, schools have the option of choosing an approach that not only gathers data from school staff and students but also external community partners.
You can find a list of these assessment tools in NCSSLE’s School Climate Survey Compendium.
Analyze Data and Create a Plan
A critical part of the planning team’s work is analyzing the data from each part of the assessment. Data from focus groups, surveys and interviews will be reviewed to create a plan for implementation (this is included in Kickboard’s School Culture Audit offering). The data review should be organized and includes discussion and reflection from the school leadership and planning team. Identify areas where patterns or differences across aggregate groups may occur. Use this information to determine areas of growth to address and bright spots within the school climate and culture to celebrate.
The plan of action should be aligned to the school’s culture goals and objectives and provide clear methods on how to achieve those goals. It will include who in the school team will participate in the work and how they will implement the actions to change the school culture and climate.
Data Collection Plans
- Make the data accessible to the planning team
- Aggregate data across demographics and stakeholder categories
- Write, revise, review, approve and share the final plan
Implement Accountability Measures
Once the school’s climate and culture have been assessed, include in your plan some accountability measures that will support implementation plans. School leaders can lead these efforts by identifying priorities for the school and providing the necessary resources to move the work along. Accountability looks like a plan successfully being followed to advance student learning and improve the environment across the school functions. It directly impacts school success.
With the school climate and culture plan in place, school leaders can monitor progress and work toward adapting those efforts as needed. As students are currently experiencing remote and hybrid learning, being able to manage school climate and culture across learning environments is critical. Check out this Kickboard blog on Managing School Culture in Distance and Remote Learning Setting.