“Combining determination and data to improve school climate builds a foundation for comprehensive education reform,” says Gov. Bob Wise
WASHINGTON, DC—Schools that struggle most with providing a positive school climate more often disproportionately serve students of color and low-income students, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education finds. The report, Climate Change: Creating an Integrated Framework for Improving School Climate, also confirms that students of color and students from low-income families are less likely to have access to rigorous course work and experienced teachers, and are more likely to be suspended than their white and wealthier peers.
“Many current school reform efforts focus on individual issues, such as school safety or the need for high-quality standards,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “The nation needs a comprehensive approach that addresses these issues in the broader context of improving school climate and student engagement, particularly in high schools.”
The report is the first in a series that analyzes data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) to determine how this data can be used to support effective secondary school reform, with a particular focus on the nation’s lowest-performing secondary schools. Released biannually, the CRDC represents about 85 percent of the nation’s students and provides information about inequities in students’ access to rigorous course work, the distribution of experienced and licensed or certified teachers, and the application of school discipline policies. The Alliance analyzes the data to explore why low-performing schools have dismal student outcomes and to point a path for research-based improvements to school climate.
The report posits that school discipline, curriculum, and teaching are interconnected and any effort to address one issue will be limited unless the other two are addressed as well. When addressed as a whole, these issues make up school climate. The Alliance defines “positive school climate” as an environment committed to meeting and developing the academic, social, and emotional needs of every student. A positive school climate positively correlates with student engagement and success, the report notes. “In the schools that reflect the worst of what this data shows, not only are students not being given what they need to succeed when they walk through the school door, but they are also often met with academic and discipline practices that in effect make them turn around and walk back out,” the report cautions.
“Every student deserves a chance to succeed, and that begins with improving school climate. The Alliance’s analyses of the CRDC in these reports provide a strong framework for comprehensive education reform that begins with addressing inequities and will result in engaged students and improved outcomes,” said Wise.
The full report is available here.
The Alliance will release three additional reports in the school climate series addressing the following issue areas:
- Equitable Practice in School Discipline: Creating a Positive School Climate
- Equitable Access to Rigorous Course Work: Preparing All Students for College and a Career; and
- Equitable Access to Effective Teaching: Preparing, Supporting, and Developing Effective Instructional Practices.
Join the conversation surrounding high school climate on Twitter using the hashtag #hsclimate.