Successful schools make students feel welcome, academically engaged and supported by the adults in the building. Considering the school climate of your schools is as important as examining student scores and graduation rates because a healthy environment can have a tremendous impact on student achievement. This presentation reviews the research on the relationship between school climate and student learning, and gives an overview of what students nationally think and say about the climate of their schools.
Failing students often feel left out of the school culture, and students who are disengaged don’t often produce academically. It’s a chicken or egg situation, and varies from one student to the next. What we know is that students who exhibit these early warning signs are in danger of eventually dropping out. Successful interventions attend to both their academic and social needs to put them back on track.
While this list is not inclusive, these indicators represent a good jumping off point for considering school climate. The slides that follow show data for each of these indicators and how it relates to a safe and productive learning environment and high student achievement.
Attendance is key to student achievement and it’s not just student attendance. High absenteeism among teachers can also have a negative impact on school climate and performance.
Missing 3 or more days monthly is a high rate of absenteeism, and can translate into academic failure and social disengagement. Reading this graph: 20% of all middle school students reported missing 3 or more days the previous month.
Feeling unsafe or bullied in or on the way to school prompts many students to miss school. Reading this graph: 5% of students aged 12-17 reported missing school the previous month because they did not feel safe.
Since the 1990s, US schools have seen a sizable decline in violent crimes committed on their campuses. Nonetheless 5% of all students still do not feel safe in or on the way to school. Students of color are more likely to feel afraid than their white peers.
Even verbal bullying can have a negative impact on student performance.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth report being bullied more than other students. Reading this graph: 30% of secondary LGBT students said they missed school because they did not feel safe compared to 6.7% of the general population of secondary students.
Discipline problems also contribute to a poor school climate. While schools have a responsibility to protect students from disruptive or dangerous peers, it’s important to understand that students who are being disciplined through out-of-school suspensions suffer academically, too, and often end up in the juvenile justice system.
Out-of-school suspensions and expulsions can also have a negative impact on school wide performance. Researchers Rausch and Skiba compared demographically similar schools and found that some schools are able to keep suspensions down and produce higher student outcomes as a result. The effective practices included community partnerships and strong school leadership.
Black students are more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to receive out-of-school suspensions.
Texas researchers found that nine out of ten students who are referred for disciplinary action for the first time are referred for a “code of conduct” violation, which is discretionary and not mandated by state standards. This is true for all races. However, black students are more likely to be given an out-of-school suspension than their white and Hispanic peers for their first offense.
NSBA encourages school boards to hold conversations with students to begin to understand the climate in their district schools. Guidelines for holding these conversations can be found in the “Students on Board” brochure. Here is a sample of some key questions to get the conversation going.
Get students’ ideas about how school boards could improve school climate.
Don’t let the effort stop with the conversation. There are things that school boards can do to improve the climate in their district.
Students on Board (Slides only)
Why school climate is important Setting the stage for Students on Board conversations Prepared by Center for Public Education National School Boards Association August 2011
A safe and welcoming learning climate is aprerequisite to high student achievement. Schooldistricts need to understand climate issues, conductassessments, pass policies, and take steps to makeimprovement where necessary. -- Brian K. Perkins The CUBE Survey of Urban School Climate
Early warning signs of dropping out - it’s both academic and social Academic • failing grades in English or math performance • sharp decline in grades • falling behind in credits in 9th grade • retained in grade School • poor attendance (80% or worse) engagement • failing “behavior” grades in 6th gradeSOURCE: Center for Public Education, Keeping Kids in School, 2009, www.centerforpubliceducation.org 3
Indicators that contribute to a good school climate• Schools are well-attended by students & teachers• Students feel protected and not bullied• Out-of-school suspensions are minimal
Attendance and learning • Students who miss a lot of school are more likely to earn low grades and test scores • Schools with high student absenteeism are more likely to have low student achievement • High teacher absenteeism also relates to lower student achievementSOURCES: Roby, Research on School Attendance & Student Achievement, Education Research Quarterly, 2003; Gottfried, Evaluating theRelationship Between Student Attendance and Achievement, AERA, 2010; Miller et al., Do Teacher Absences Impact StudentAchievement? NBER, 2007
1 in 5 middle schoolers miss 3 or more days of school a month Percent of students responding by race 29 24 23 20 19 12 overall white black Hispanic Asian Native AmSOURCE: IES, Condition of Education, 2006. Percent of 8th gradersreporting missing 3 or more days the previous month, 2005
1 in 20 teens miss schoolbecause they do not feel safe there Percent of students responding by race 8.1 5 6.3 3.5 overall white black HispanicSOURCE: IES, Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2010. Percent of students aged 12-17 reportingmissing school in previous month because they did feel safe there. www.data-first.org
How safe do students think their schools are? • Half of all students say there’s a lot of fighting in their school • Half of all students witness children being bullied at least once a month • Only one third of students believe teachers are able to stop bullyingSOURCE: percent who agree/strongly agree with statement. Brian K. Perkins, Where WeLearn, NSBA, Council of Urban Boards of Education, 2006
Fewer students today report feeling afraid than a decade ago Percent of students who feel afraid in or on the way to school 1995 2007 20 21 14 8 9 7 4 2 white black Hispanic otherSOURCE: NCES, US Dept of Education, Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2009, Table 17.1
Bullying is one of the most pervasive discipline problems • One-third of students aged 12-18 report being bullied at school • The most common form of bullying is verbal, either through insults, ridicule or being the subject of rumors • 11% of students report being pushed, tripped or spit on, and 6% have been threatened with harmSOURCE: NCES, US Dept of Education, Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2010, Figures 11.1 and 11.2
Bullying obstructs learning • Bullied middle schoolers can see their GPA decline as much 1.5 points • Students who are harassed by their peers are less likely to feel connected to school and more likely to earn poor gradesSOURCES: Juvonen, Bullying and Violence as Barriers to Achievement, 2009; Eisenberg et al., PeerHarassment, School Connectedness, and Academic Achievement, Journal of School Health, 2003
LGBT students feel being bullied the most Percent of secondary students reporting that they … LGBT secondary students General secondary students 68.2 30 24.9 6.7 missed school because they did not feel were sexually harassed safeSOURCE: Kosciw et al, The 2009 National School Climate Survey, the Gay, Lesbian and StraightEducation Network, 2010
If we are going to stem the tide in student bullying, itwill not be because of mandates from above, butrather because local school board members havedrawn out students’ voices, creating conditions forthem to analyze root causes and generate solutionsthat work. -- Mary Broderick NSBA president, 2011-12
The effect of suspensions on students • Students who have been suspended are far more likely to repeat a grade or drop out altogether • Half of students who were disciplined 11 or more times end up in the juvenile justice systemSOURCE: Fabelo et al, Breaking Schools’ Rules, The Council of StateGovernments/Public Policy Research Institute, July 2011
The effect of suspensions on schools • Schools with high suspension and expulsion rates tend to have low school wide achievement. • Demographically similar schools with strong school- community partnerships and governance have lower rates of suspensions and expulsions AND higher achievement.SOURCE: Rausch & Skiba, The Academic Cost of Discipline, Center for Evaluationand Education Policy, Indiana University, 2006
Black students are more likely to be suspended than their peers percentages 15 7 7 8 5 3 overall white black Hispanic Asian Native AmSOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, 2006. Percent of students who were suspendedduring 2005-06 school year. www.data-first.org
Black students are disproportionately represented in out-of-school suspensions Percent of these Percent of 1st Percent referred whose 1st referral referrals resulting for disciplinary was for a code of in out-of-school action conduct violation suspension Black 75.1 94.2 26.2 White 64.8 92.7 18.0 Hispanic 46.9 93.3 9.9SOURCE: Fabelo et al, Breaking Schools’ Rules, The Council of StateGovernments/Public Policy Research Institute, July 2011
Why the discrepancy? • To date, researchers have found no evidence that black students commit more serious offenses than other groups • Some researchers suggest black students are referred for more “subjective” reasonsSOURCE: Rausch & Skiba, The Academic Cost of Discipline, Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Indiana University, 2006; Fabeloet al, Breaking Schools’ Rules, The Council of State Governments/Public Policy Research Institute, July 2011
How is your school climate? Ask the students The large majority of students say they enjoy learning, trust their teachers, and like coming to school. But enough students don’t feel this way to cause concern: • One third of all students say they don’t believe teachers are fair to everyone; black students were more likely to feel this way • One third aren’t sure if their teachers care about their successSOURCE: Brian K. Perkins, Where We Learn, NSBA, Council of Urban Boardsof Education, 2006
Students cannot learn in chaos, fear, orembarrassment …. If you really want to know whatpeople feel about their schools, ask them. -- The Key Work of School Boards
Get the conversation going• What is school like for you?• Do you feel safe at school?• Have you seen someone bullied? Is this common or rare? Did another student or teacher try to stop it?• Do you feel respected by teachers and staff? Do they care if you’re successful?
If you were the school board, what would beone thing you would do to improve theschool?
Moving forward • Use your data. Include a school climate assessment as part of your annual district evaluation • Establish an early warning data system to identify students who may be in danger of dropping out • Encourage stakeholder involvement in ongoing discussions. Don’t forget students! • Establish clear policies to create a positive school climateAdapted from Perkins, Where We Learn, 2006, and Keeping Kids in School, Center for Public Education, 2009.
Learn more about school climatepolicies and practices that work http://www.nsba.org/Students-on-Board http://www.nsba.org/Bullying