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School Climate Matters

​​​​​​​“School climate is based on patterns of people’s experiences of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures.” (National School Climate Council, 2007, p.4)

What Is a Positive School Climate?

  • Norms, values, and expectations make students and adults socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically safe.
    All school community members are engaged and respected.
  • Students, families, and educators work together to achieve shared school vision.
  • Educators model and nurture an attitude emphasizing the benefits of and satisfaction from learning.
  • Each person contributes to school operations and the care of the physical environment.
  • Visitors to the school feel welcomed(Cohen and Elias 2011) 

Why Should We Care About School Climate? 
School climate may be the missing link in promoting school reform and closing the achievement gap (Schindler 2010). Studies have clearly shown that schools with a positive school climate have higher academic achievement (Cohen, 2009; Schindler 2010; NSCC 2012). And when considering the whole learner, school climate impacts a variety of factors that influence learning such as students' emotional health, feelings of safety, attendance, relationships, and motivation. A positive school climate and supportive conditions for learning can:

  • Impact learning and boost academic achievement thus closing gaps
  • Increase graduation rates
  • Decrease teacher turnover
  • Increase teacher satisfaction
  • Turn around low-performing schools (Osher 2012)                   

School Climate Resources

    • Articles, Websites and Research             
    • Presentations
    • Process Tools, Survey Resources 

Articles, Websites and Research

Building Safe, Engaging and Equitable School  NEW
This American Institutes for Research website has a wealth of reports, toolkits, and a quick guide to making school improvements.

School Climate Research Summary
Produced by the National School Climate Center.    
National School Climate Standards
The five National School Climate Standards provide a research-based framework and benchmark criteria for educational leaders (School Boards, State Departments of Education, Superintendents, Principals and After School leaders) to support and assess district and school efforts to enhance and be accountable for school climate.
Students' well being and academic success differs according to the level of opportunities for student participation. Increased opportunities for participation positively correlates with academic performance, student connectedness to schools, and student perception of school safety.
The School Climate Index (SCI) has a direct relationship to the Academic Performance Index (API). As SCI increases, student API increases as well.
School Climate and Mental Health
A summary of literature that suggests that school climate can impact student learning and social, emotional, and psychological development.
A helpful diagram on the key stages of the school climate improvement process.
A brief collection of school climate research facts in relation to safety, teaching and learning, relationships, institutional environment, and school improvement.
School Climate Matters
A two-page brief article describing the research.
As California teachers begin to strategize about how to meet the Common Core standards, some educators say that explicit instruction in social and emotional competence – teaching students how to regulate their emotions, problem-solve, and disagree respectfully, among other abilities – should be a key part of the equation.
Supporting Teachers Is Part of Positive School Climate
Effective learning conditions for students must begin with effective working conditions for staff.
Teacher Support: High Expectations and Caring Relationships
Caring relationships and high expectations improves a student's academic success, decreases instances of truancy, and improves the perception of school safety.


Character, Connectedness, Community and Cognition
This presentation addresses the link between cognitive development and social-emotional-character development. It ​presents the elements of an intentional classroom community and the teacher-student relationship as the foundation of effective instruction.

High Expectations and Meaningful Participation: What Do These Have to Do with Learning? (Archived Webinar)
A school environment in which all students are nurtured and challenged helps foster greater attachment to school and student learning (Hattie, 2009; Klem & Connel, 2004). 
Impacting School Culture: Examining Rituals, Traditions, & Ceremonies
A conference presentation about the impact of a culture of community on learning and student well-being, student connectedness, and the examination of a school’s rituals, ceremonies and traditions for the messages they send about core ethical values.
Making the Case for the Importance of School Climate and Its Measurement in Turnaround Schools (Archived Webinar)
This webinar was presented by the USDOE’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students’ Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) Technical Assistance Center and the School Turnaround Learning Communities presented the Webinar, “Making the Case for the Importance of School Climate and Its Measurement in Turnaround Schools," on September 20, 2012.
The School Experience: Risk or Protective Factor for Bullying?  
Four questions are addressed in this presentation: What is school climate and how does it impact student behavior? What school factors facilitate bullying behaviors? What school factors decrease bullying? What school-wide practices prevent and reduce bullying?
School Climate Webinar Series
Webinar 1: The “What” and “Why” of School Climate     Archived Slides
Webinar 2: Measuring School Climate and Using the Data    Archived Slides
Webinar 3: Best Practices for Improving School Climate   Archived Slides
Learn about school climate national standards, criteria for selecting school climate measurement tools for LCAP, and best practices to improve climate. Presenter: Lucy Vezzuto, Ph.D., Orange County Department of Education​

A keynote presentation for the yearly launch of the Orange County Dept. of Education PBIS Initiative.

School Climate: The Missing Link in School Reform Efforts
A presentation shared at the U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools National Conference August 2011

Promoting Authentic Student Voice
Fully engage the power of your students to enhance and maintain a positive school climate.

Process Tools, Surveys Resources

Data Dialogue Resources
These are process templates to conduct data dialogues with school climate stakeholders using survey results.
Fixed Discipline Mini Toolkit  NEW
The Fix School Discipline Mini-Toolkit is a collection of resources for students, parents, community, advocates, educators and anyone interested in learning how to eliminate harsh discipline practices that push students out of school, and instead enact solutions that work for all students.  The Mini-Toolkit includes individual quick reference tools on important topics related to ending punitive discipline practices and improving school climate, such as The School to Prison Pipeline or Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices.

Guidelines for Conducting Student "Fishbowl" Focus Groups 
Here’s a process developed by Dr. Bonnie Bernard to involve students in making school a place where they feel connected and contributing.
Impacting School Culture: Examining Rituals, Traditions, & Ceremonies
This learning activity presents a four-step process to examine a school's rituals and traditions for the messages they send to the whole school community.
Does school staff view students as problems or problem solvers?  Here’s a tool to find out and can be a touchstone for a conversation.
Quick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements NEW
This Quick Guide provides district and school leaders, teachers, school staff, and other members of the school community with the basics on how to initiate, implement, and sustain school climate improvements.

The USDOE Safe and Supportive Schools has a technical assistance website to support the improvement of conditions for learning for students and conditions for teaching for educators.

School Climate Survey Compendia  NEW
The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) maintains a compendium of valid and reliable surveys, assessments, and scales of school climate that can assist educators in their efforts to identify and assess their conditions for learning.
USDOE School Climate Surveys
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is dedicated to helping keep students safe and improving their learning environments. In particular, ED developed the new, high-quality, adaptable ED School Climate Surveys (EDSCLS) and associated web-based platform that allows States, local districts, and schools to collect and act on reliable, nationally-validated school climate data in real-time.​