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School Climate: Ed. Dept. Provides Free Surveys, Resources to Schools

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The U.S. Department of Education released a free, web-based survey Thursday that schools can use to track the effectiveness of school climate efforts and resources on how to best improve learning environments for students.

The surveys, developed with input from researchers and the department's office of safe and healthy students, can be administered to middle and high school students, staff, parents, and guardians, providing real-time data about their perceptions of the school environment.

That data can be stored on state and local data systems, the Education Department said, adding that "the federal government is planning to conduct a sample-based study using the surveys for benchmarking but will not collect or store data generated by schools using the surveys for their own school climate improvement purposes."

Tracking school climate through periodic surveys is part of a growing trend as more and more research shows the role that discipline policies, supportive relationships, and emotional health play in students' academic success. Cleveland schools, for example, regularly administer "conditions for learning" surveys, providing the results in an easily readable format on school-level report cards. Principals and teachers regularly review the data to inform policies and tweak practices.

The new federal surveys provide a tool for schools and districts that may not have had the resources or capability to develop one on their own.

"All students deserve schools that work to ensure safe and supportive school climates in which they can reach their full potential," Acting Deputy Secretary James Cole Jr. said in a statement. "These new surveys and quick guide will support any school that seeks to make significant improvements in all students' safety and sense of respect and connectedness at school. We owe it to our children to ensure that school is not only safe and engaging, but that we are also working to continuously improve school climate by using high-quality resources like these."

The website for the surveys includes this graphic, showing the broad categories of what they measure.

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The department also released a  Quick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements, which includes guides to planning school climate efforts, working with "community stakeholders," collecting and reporting data, choosing and implementing interventions, and monitoring efforts.


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