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A Guide to School Climate Surveys

School climate represents an important lever for improving school safety, the quality of teaching and learning, and the strength of relationships in your school or district. Collecting feedback from families, students, and teachers and staff through a school climate survey is essential to building the strong, welcoming relationships that are for integral school and district success.

At Panorama, we work closely with thousands of schools to measure, understand, and act on school climate data. In this post, we explain why assessing and acting on school climate matters for educators and administrators, and how you can use school climate surveys for improvement.

Introduction to a school climate survey

School climate is a collection of attributes that govern how students, families, faculty, and staff relate to each other and the school itself. It’s essential to keep in mind that a strong and vibrant school climate can be developed and strengthened over time by understanding the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of members of your community.

According to the National School Climate Council, the 4 core components of positive school climate include:

  • Safety

  • Strong relationships

  • Effective and productive teaching and learning

  • Healthy, welcoming external environment

All stakeholders should feel that the school has norms, values, and expectations that make them feel safe, respected, and engaged; that there is a shared school vision that all stakeholders are working towards; and that educators model and nurture positive associations with learning.

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What the school climate research says

For over a hundred years, educators and researchers have emphasized the importance of a healthy and vibrant school climate. Research from the 1950’s on has consistently demonstrated that positive school climate improves the quality of teaching and learning in the school, and helps promote healthy youth development.

School climate plays an integral role in creating engaging, effective educational experiences for students and families, and supporting faculty and staff professional growth and collaboration. For more information about why a vibrant school climate is integral to school and district success, read “A Review of School Climate Research.”

Getting feedback with a school climate survey

Everyone—students, families, faculty, and staff—has a critical role to play in the development of strong and healthy school climate. We’ve developed survey instruments for each stakeholder group to gather perceptions of school climate in the four categories outlined above.

Measuring the strength of your school or district’s climate is an opportunity to engage your community in defining what healthy school and district climate means in your context, using these criteria as a framework. But understanding how to collect high-quality school climate data is critical towards building the school climate that you and your community want.

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Choosing your survey instrument

Based on the four elements of school climate described above, we’ve highlighted a selection of survey questions from the Panorama Student Survey, the Family-School Relationships Survey, and the Panorama Teacher Survey. These feedback surveys can help you learn how stakeholders perceive the key aspects of school climate in your school community:

School Safety

Perceptions of students’ physical and psychological safety while at school

How often do you worry about violence at your school?
How often do students get into physical fights at your school?
How often are people disrespectful to others at your school?

Pedagogical Effectiveness

Perceptions of the quality of teaching and amount of learning students experience

How much does this teacher know about the topic of his/her class?
How often does this teacher give you feedback that helps you learn?
For this class, how clearly does this teacher present the information that you need to learn?

Teacher-Student Relationships

Perceptions of the strength of social connections between teachers and students within and beyond the classroom

How respectful is this teacher towards you?
If you walked into class upset, how concerned would your teacher be?
When your teacher asks how you are doing, how often do you feel that your teacher is really interested in your answer?

School Climate

Perceptions of the overall social and learning climate of the school

How often do your teachers seem excited to be teaching your classes?
How pleasant or unpleasant is the physical space at your school?
How fair or unfair are the rules for the students at this school?

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Download Panorama’s School Climate Survey template to collect high-quality feedback on climate from students, families, teachers and staff.

Next steps: resources for action

Using a school climate survey to gather collect information about family, student, faculty, and staff perceptions is an easy way for you to understand what’s happening in your community. School climate surveys offer an important opportunity for you to start making change in the areas that matter in your context. From our work with schools and districts around the country, we’ve produced a set of resources that will help you meaningfully understand and act on your school climate data.

school climate surveyWant to learn how other schools and district use a school climate survey? Listen to our webinar “Using School Climate Data for District Improvement” featuring Bloomfield Public Schools, a mid-sized district in Connecticut,  that uses school climate surveys for students, parents, and staff members.

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