Measuring School Climate & Culture with Student Surveys

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Measuring school climate and culture has a direct impact on school performance. As a foundation for addressing and changing school culture, leaders must gather critical information about perceptions of the school from the students, staff and other school community members. Using the information gathered from student surveys can lead to improved student attendance, lower discipline rates, increased student well-being and decreased negative student-to-student interactions.

A comprehensive assessment of the school environment is driven by data collected on student engagement, learning and school safety. As data is collected, it can inform the school goals and action plans. It is important to note that school climate surveys don’t just impact the student experience but are also important for staff. As school administrators are working to build a school space that is positive and inclusive, this information will help to retain teachers and staff.

→ Check out our simple, monthly Student SEL and Climate Survey

Implementation Plan 

Create a timeline and plan for survey implementation. This may include determining the method of survey delivery and finalizing the content of the surveys. If there is a team or individual leaders who are facilitating these efforts, keep the survey plans available for feedback and discussion with the school leader. This will ensure input from key school staff and will be an opportunity to really address specific school needs. 

Choosing the right survey

If your school is deciding on where to focus a student survey, consider covering some of these topics: 

  • School Safety 
  • Leadership Influence
  • Instructional Effectiveness 
  • Teacher & Student Beliefs
  • Relationships 
  • Behaviors and Policy 
  • Student self reflection

Not all surveys are as effective as others. Leaders must consider what works in their schools. Who will take the survey? How will they take it (digitally or on paper)? How will the data be analyzed? How often will the survey be administered? Planning for these questions will support an effective survey implementation plan. 

After determining the survey that is most appropriate to your needs and deciding what questions will lead to collecting the right data, the school administration can develop a plan to measure school climate and culture. 

Survey Distribution 

Identify a delivery method that is easy for the participant group. For example, think about ways to use digital survey systems in conjunction with the existing learning platforms. Distribute surveys when students are present to complete them. If the survey is being distributed to parents or other staff, be sure that it can be easily accessed. You may also need a paper version or translated options to encourage more participation.

There are multiple ways to distribute surveys. Think about the use of entrance and exit surveys in the classroom, traditional surveys or short checklists that could be used during observations. These various methods measure different parts of the school culture and climate and provide a broad understanding of the experience. 

Data Analysis

A significant part of the survey process is analyzing the data. Using the data collected and aggregating it across school demographics or grade levels will provide targeted feedback about the school experience. The data can then be used to inform growth areas to make changes. Investigate the data analysis tools or features with your survey platform that will ensure this process is smooth. Invite key leaders to provide context for the survey data in order best understand the learning environment as a whole. 

Adjust 

This is the most important step: Use the data from the surveys to improve the areas that need more work. Take time to invest in systems and procedures that could change outcomes for students. Allow teachers and other staff to support this by being involved in the action planning and become invested in improving the results. 

Survey Distribution (Again!)

Continue to administer the surveys to measure growth and progress. As you see improvement, begin to incorporate questions to measure the next priority of needs. If areas of focus are not improving over time, take different and additional actions to address that feedback from the community. 

Distributing school surveys throughout the year allows school leadership to collect information more often and to adjust the school culture and climate plans in real time. Involving parents as well is important to understanding the similarities and differences between student and family experience. As leaders seek to provide high quality learning environments, using surveys to assess and measure school climate will ensure they have the best information to inform their decisions.