Have you ever walked into a school building and immediately felt welcomed and invited? How about the opposite?
The schools’ culture permeates throughout the building, but it’s often nebulous; you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you feel it, and you usually know within minutes if it has good or bad vibes.
What is the climate of your school?
It’s hard to pin down if you don’t know what you’re looking for to gauge the school’s overall climate. If you’re new to school counseling, you might be tempted to do a survey and ask, “Do you like it here?” However, the answer to that question is more nuanced and opaque than a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
Whose perception of the school do we want to know?
Well, the obvious answer is everyone. We want to know what all the school personnel, parents, and students all have to say about their school experience. Every voice deserves to be heard.
How do I know what to ask to get a pulse on the climate of my school?
I’m so glad you asked! The good people over at the National School Climate Center have created an empirically validated tool to assess the strengths, as well as the areas for improvement at your school.
They call it, The Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI), designed to accurately assess student, parent/guardian, and school personnel perceptions to get the data that you need to make informed decisions for lasting improvement.
Unfortunately, this survey is not free, but they share a sample of each of their surveys for all three major stakeholder categories. The sneak peek they provide might give you an overview of the areas you would need to focus on to support your school.
What kinds of questions does the survey ask?
Using a Likert Scale to determine the strength of their agreement, the survey asks questions that reveal the school’s underlying climate. They’re asking if their school is inclusive, supportive, encouraging, and kind, without directly asking, and instead invites stakeholders to share how it is from their experience.
These are a few survey question examples:
“In my school, we talk about ways to be a good person.” (Elementary Student)
“In my school, we learn ways to resolve disagreements so that everyone can be satisfied with the outcome.”
“It is common for students to tease and insult one another.” (Personnel)
“Students have friends at school they can turn to if they have questions about homework.” (Parent)
What happens if the results are unfavorable?
Fantastic! Now you know there is a problem, and you get to find solutions to remedy the situation. The faculty and the students typically spend more time at school than they do with their own families; we need to make school a warm and welcoming place for everyone.
Discovering that your school is not the place of rainbows and sunshine you’d imagined can be difficult, but you can work backward with the data collected to improve your school environment.
*Head nod to my friend and colleague Ashley Davis for sharing this incredible resource.