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The National School Climate Center has defined school climate as the quality of school life experienced by students, caregivers, school personnel, and others interacting with the school environment. A positive school climate, then, is one where the school attends to each of the following: (a) fostering safety; (b) promoting a supportive academic, disciplinary, and physical environment; and (c) encouraging and maintaining respectful, trusting, and caring relationships throughout the school community. Additionally, organizational structures such as student body socioeconomic status (SES), retention of staff, racial and ethnic diversity of staff and students, and community support may influence climate. School climate can be thought of as the life and character of the school, thus, seeking opportunities to create or sustain a positive school climate is foundational to continuous improvement efforts.
What Action Can Be Taken?
Effective school practices that benefit educational stakeholders and could contribute to reduce dropout rates should include the development and implementation of the following:
- A “whole child” approach which focuses on students’ social and emotional well-being, academic progress, and overall development and success.
- A breakfast program as students who eat breakfast at school attend an average of one and a half more days of school every year. When offered in the classroom, breakfast can be an opportunity to bond with teachers and get students ready for their day.
- A tiered and prevention-based framework like PBIS that approaches students from a strength-based perspective, teaches students how to be successful, and celebrates their accomplishments with clear benchmarks for attaining student success.
- Mechanisms by which students can connect to strong adult and peer relationships through mentoring programs and partnering with social service agencies.
- Incentives and recognition programs for students and schools when there is improvement in attendance to positively impact school climate.
- Strategies designed to catch students up, such as: Self-paced catch-up courses, project-based learning, differentiated flexible school schedules, job training embedded as part of the academic program.
- Policies and practices that promote personalized learning environments and opportunities for individualized instruction such as tutoring, case management, and small classes focused on building close staff-student relationships.
Colorado School Climate Facts and Figures
Data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, a biennial survey collecting data from an average of 38,000 Colorado youth from 190 randomly selected middle and high schools statewide, shows the following findings related to school climate:
- Feeling engaged and connected to school can protect youth from unhealthy decisions. Colorado youth surveyed, indicated as slight decrease in participation in extracurricular activities since 2015.
- Youth reporting they have been bullied electronically in the past 12 months has remained steady hovering around 15% since 2013
- Colorado youth reporting they had been in a fight in the last 12 months has decreased since 2015.
- Nearly 4,000 Colorado youth reported they had attempted suicide in the past 12 months during the 2016-2017 school year.