School Climate, LCAP, and the Safe and Supportive Schools Project
This website is a resource for supporting California schools in the important task of fostering positive school climates as part of school improvement plans. It provides access to a wealth of information and a wide range of publications, tools, trainings, and other technical assistance to support data-driven school climate improvement.
It is a particularly valuable resource for California schools districts in guiding the implementation of an effective Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). In its annual LCAP, each district in California must now assess and describe its goals for improving school climate, as one of eight state-required priorities. Moreover, school climate improvement is critical to achieving all the goals of the LCAP, particularly pupil engagement, parent involvement, and academic achievement.
This website and the resources it provides were originally developed to support 58 California high schools that received four-year Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) grants in 2011 from the California Department of Education. The S3 grant was intended to support statewide measurement of conditions for learning and targeted programmatic interventions to improve those conditions. In particular, the initiative was designed to promote safe, caring, engaging, and healthy school environments that foster learning and well-being among both students and staff. The initiative’s framework, and its data-driving, stakeholder-engaged, action-planning process, provide a model for the LCAP process and serve as a roadmap for all schools on how to move forward in improving their school climates and academic achievement. To read more about the project and stories about what grantees did to improve school climate and academic achievement, click on the About S3 tab.
About School Climate
WHY SCHOOL CLIMATE MATTERS
A growing body of research shows that school climate strongly influences students’ motivation to learn and their academic achievement, as well as teacher job satisfaction and retention. When school members feel safe, valued, cared for, respected, and engaged, learning increases. Schools that provide students with supports to meet these basic developmental needs allow them to grow socially and emotionally and avoid problems ranging from emotional distress to drug use to violence—in addition to helping them achieve academically. Without these conditions being met, efforts to improve academic achievement and graduation, college and career readiness, and behavior and discipline, will invariably fall short. Click here to view Leading with Heart, a film about how schools in California have been improving their school climates and the benefits that have resulted.
CREATING A POSITIVE SCHOOL CLIMATE
Fostering a positive school climate must be a shared mission, created and sustained by school administrators and staff, students, and parents, and supported by the community. It must be an integral part of school improvement plans in order to have a positive and sustainable effect. Too often, fragmented solutions are implemented, are marginalized in the school, and improvements are short-lived. In order to achieve meaningful and sustainable improvements, schools must have a clear sense of their vision and goals and common commitment to achieving them. Schools also need to understand the barriers to learning that their students experience beyond the school and address those barriers before students canachieve and thrive.
The first step to improving school climate is assessing needs. Thus LCAP requirements call for measuring school climate through surveys of students, parents, and teachers on the sense of safety and school connectedness, as well as suspension and expulsion rates. Surveying students, teachers, and school staff can provide valuable data about how each group perceives conditions for learning and their strengths and needs. Such information can then be used to design prevention and intervention programs specific to the needs of the school community.
The California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey System (Cal-SCHLS) provides comprehensive, research-validated instruments for assessing school climate perceptions and experiences of students (California Healthy Kids Survey), staff, and parents. The system provides data not only about school safety and climate in general, but also student learning motivation and engagement, school connectedness, and social emotional competencies, as well as parent involvement. It is of the most valuable resources for developing, monitoring, and evaluating LCAP efforts. Click here to read more about how the variables measured by the Cal-SCHLS survey align with LCAP requirements and goals.
Secondary schools with Cal-SCHLS data also can request a School Climate Report Card to help identify, monitor, and evaluate their school climate needs and serve as data metrics for their LCAP. The report card provides summary data on eight domains of school climate and an overall school climate index. District-level School Climate Report Cards are also available. Click here for a sample School Climate Report Card.