School Climate Survey–NOT the Room Temperature

One of the best things about working with young people is that I never stop learning. Today at lunch with six of our stellar sophomores, I mentioned our school climate survey and how much I’m looking forward to the results. I quickly realized that school climate means something different to our students than what I mean when Austin replied, “what? I think it’s fine. Well, the Spanish room is always cold.”

Families are all receiving more information about the survey via a phone call home today, paper surveys are being sent home in bookbags or in the mail, and we have links to the survey on our webpage and in PowerSchool.

This survey begins today, October 1 and continues through October 15. The idea to survey all of our school community members developed at a Board of Education (BOE) Retreat in the summer of 2013. It grew from a genuine desire on the part of the BOE members to know what everyone in our school community thinks and to identify our strengths and weaknesses. Along with the BOE members, I’m looking forward to learning what we can do better together in our efforts to continually improve our school system. We sincerely want to hear from every member of the school community and our hope is that everyone will be involved in the process.

School climate refers to the subjective experience of being in a school. It exists at the intersection of individual perceptions and the structure of the school environment. Research has confirmed that the way students feel about being in school shapes their learning and development, and school personnel are also better able to do their jobs in a healthy and supportive school climate. After researching the options, we chose the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI) survey which was developed by the National School Climate Center (NSCC) over the past four years. The dimensions of school climate measured (safety, relationships, teaching & learning, and environment) and the individual survey items are built on several decades’ worth of research on school climate.

The Comprehensive School Climate Survey (CSCI) is unique in that it is designed to help a school collect responses from the entire school community—all students, parents, teachers, and staff members at the school are asked to fill out surveys, and the report shows how the three groups differ in their perceptions of the school climate. The CSCI is designed to be a needs assessment for schools, helping us to evaluate the school’s strengths and weaknesses, and provides a platform on which to build an action plan for improving school climate. By incorporating the perceptions of the entire community, we can create a more effective and accurate plan that addresses core strengths and weaknesses.

We know there is a key factor that will affect the validity of the survey results and therefore we chose CSCI because they manage the data, not RCS. The survey results are completely anonymous—no names are recorded and no identifying information will ever be attached to specific responses. Results are reported only in terms of the way groups of people have responded. [The report does include information on sub-groups (by race, gender, grade, etc), but in an effort to maintain anonymity, these results are suppressed or combined for sub-groups with fewer than ten people. Respondents should answer as many questions as possible (although no one is required to answer questions that make them uncomfortable). The more responses we get, the better the data. [Note: on the electronic version of the survey, respondents have the option of selecting a “don’t know” or “not applicable” answer, but survey items may not be left entirely blank.]

Diane Graham, Kristie Ling, and Maureen Pitts are leading this effort for us. They will be the “point” people in each building to answer questions and to help with general information. Please know that you can ask any of us, and our building leaders, if you have any questions. Contact the school at 716-358-6161 with any questions.

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