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A healthy school climate contributes to effective teaching and learning. These instruments for assessing climate can help schools make informed and meaningful changes for the better.
School climate is an everchanging factor in the lives of people who work and learn in schools. Much like the air we breathe, school climate is ignored until it becomes foul.
School climate can be a positive influence on the health of the learning environment or a significant barrier to learning. Thus, feedback about school climate can play an important role in school reform and improvement efforts. Without continual and varied sources of feedback, reforms may lose a sense of direction and suffer from a lack of knowledge about school- and classroom-based efforts and about the perceptions of those who are key partners in the learning environment (students, parents, and community). Measuring the influence of change-directed activities on the climate in which teaching and learning occur should be a key factor in improving and sustaining educational excellence (Freiberg & Stein, in press).
The elements that make up school climate are complex, ranging from the quality of interactions in the teachers' lounge to the noise levels in hallways and cafeterias, from the physical structure of the building to the physical comfort levels (involving such factors as heating, cooling, and lighting) of the individuals and how safe they feel. Even the size of the school and the opportunities for students and teachers to interact in small groups both formally and informally add to or detract from the health of the learning environment. The support staff - cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, and office staff - add to the multiple dimensions of climate.
No single factor determines a school's climate. However, the interaction of various school and classroom climate factors can create a fabric of support that enables all members of the school community to teach and learn at optimum levels. Further, making even small changes in schools and classrooms can lead to significant improvements in climate.
There are many ways to measure school climate (see Freiberg, in press). The following account tells how schools used three measuring instruments - student concerns surveys, entrance and exit interviews, and ambient noise checklists. In these schools, measuring school climate - and then acting on the findings - led to significant, healthy changes.
Student Concerns Surveys
Few climate measures tap students as a source of feedback. Yet most 3rd graders have spent more than 5,000 hours in classrooms (preK through 3rd grade), and most of them could tell you if …