Remember to Ask the Kids
During their ASCD Annual Conference session, "Understanding, Evaluating, and Shaping School Climate for the Whole Child," Molly McCloskey, from ASCD, and Jonathan Cohen, from the Center for Social and Emotional Education, discussed the importance of school climate, how to measure it well, and how to use school climate data to make school improvements. McCloskey shared the following story with attendees:
A middle school was struggling with students arriving late to class. School personnel tried all the traditional methods of discipline. They sent the kids they caught in the hall after the bell rang to detention; they informed parents about the problem. Nothing worked. Finally they turned the issue over to the student council, which decided to conduct a quick student survey. The survey findings revealed the root of the problem: There were no clocks in the school's hallways.
According to McCloskey, the moral of that story is to regularly talk with students about school climate and school issues. Cohen also emphasized this point. He said schools should survey students, parents, and all school personnel about school climate because surprising and meaningful discrepancies can be discovered in which the adults' perceptions of climate significantly differ from the kids'.
Other session highlights:
- It's important to assess all of the dimensions that color and shape school climate (safety, relationships, teaching and learning, and the environment).
- Disaggregate your school climate data by age, racial background, etc.
- Positive school climate is strongly correlated with, and to some extent, predictive of high-quality teaching and academic achievement.
- Measurement should be part of a process of continuous learning and school climate improvement. This is in stark contrast to the attitude, "It's April. We're supposed to do the climate survey."
- Address issues raised by school climate measurement through a no-fault framework in which the focus is on solving problems and not assigning blame.