On Board Online • November 20, 2017
By Cathy Woodruff
School districts across the state should prepare to begin administering school climate surveys annually and report results as regularly as graduation rates and state test scores, according to state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.
“We want to get to a point where (climate surveys) are used across the state as a strategy to support students and build the social and emotional supports that are needed in schools,” Elia told reporters Nov. 13. She spoke after the Board of Regents heard a presentation from local district leaders on how climate survey results are helping them respond to the needs of their students.
Six school districts – Buffalo, Niskayuna, Rochester, Schenectady, Skaneateles and West Genesee – piloted climate surveys approved by the U.S. Department of Education last year. The impact was so clearly positive in some districts that the State Education Department hopes to expand the pilot to 50 school districts next year. More than 30 additional districts already have volunteered, officials said.
“School climate” is a broadly applied term that encompasses a wide range of aspects of the experience of attending or working in a school. Measures can include attendance, disciplinary referrals, suspensions, data on mental health, self-reported feelings of safety and security and more.
“It’s the culture of the school,” Elia said. “Am I happy when I come to work every day? Am I a student who is happy when I go to school every day? Those are the kinds of things that those (survey) questions get to.”
New York’s plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is under review by the U.S. Department of Education, calls for expanding state monitoring of local school climate as part of its accountability system. Elia said climate-related information could be included with other academic indicators of school quality, such as graduation rates and test results, on data “dashboards” that would summarize and display key information in an easy-to-digest format.
“Ultimately, we want to be able to provide this data on our dashboard for schools,” Elia said.