OFF THE SHELF: Data Not Feelings – September 2017
October 13, 2017
by Neil Ranu, LAPCS Governance Director
What is your school climate?
I realize that this a tough question, especially for board members. Climate is a broad term. We know how to sense an environment when we’re in it. We know the feeling of a place that is warm or cold, welcoming or threatening. But as board members, you are not in the schools you oversee on a daily basis. You cannot rely on feelings. There has to be some other way for you to understand the climate at your schools. That other way is data.
Boards must find ways to assess school climate. It is a key aspect of well-performing schools. Research shows that creating a positive school climate can help improve student achievement, close achievement gaps, increase high school graduation rates, turn around low-performing schools, and decrease teacher turnover and increase teacher satisfaction.
One area to start in understanding your school climate and creating data around it is in the discipline practices that are used at your school. Every school will have its own approach to student behavior. But all boards should know their schools’ approach and ensure that it is used effectively.
The National Charter School Resource Center has a number of resources for schools on discipline and school climate. These include:
- Charter School Discipline Toolkit: A Toolkit for Charter School Leaders
- Charter School Discipline: Examples of Policies and School Climate Efforts from the Field
- Webinar: Using Data to Create Positive School Climates and Discipline Practices in Charter Schools – National Research and Examples from the Field
Although some of these resources are directed to school executives, it is important that boards (through their committees) develop specialized knowledge in this area so that they can partner with their school leadership in a meaningful way. You will know best how your board can apply these resources in partnership with your executive staff.
School climate is a major part of the everyday experience of school and directly impacts students. Boards should have some way to measure it.
As always, the Top Shelf is here to help. Please contact us for resources or assistance.