What is a School Climate Survey?

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There are many different types of school surveys available today, measuring a wide variety of factors from mental health and bullying to drug and alcohol use and more. One popular type of measurement used today is the school climate survey. The phrase school climate “refers to the quality and character of school life…[it] is based on patterns of students’, parents’ and school personnel’s experience of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures.”[1]

School climate surveys are scientific measures that evaluate a range of aspects of the educational environment to assess perceptions and identify specific strengths and weaknesses within a school. The goal of these measures is to gain an accurate, representative picture of the school in order to improve in various targeted areas.

What Do School Climate Surveys Measure?

School climate surveys measure an assortment of different facets of the environment, depending on the school’s goals and the variation of the measure being used. Many teacher and staff surveys of school climate gauge school personnel’s knowledge and understanding of items such as:

  • • Training needs
  • • School safety
  • • Career and intentions
  • • School leadership
  • • Shared decision-making
  • • School climate
  • • Students and learning
  • • The teaching experience[2]

Sample questions on a school climate survey for teachers and other educators include:

  • • Instructions: Please indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following statements. Answer options include: strongly disagree, disagree, agree, or strongly agree.
    • o My principal backs up teachers when dealing with parents about disciplinary issues.
    • o I would like to be involved in decision-making about developing plans for how to close
    • the achievement gap.
    • o I have adequate resources to do a good job teaching students.
    • o Teachers receive feedback from teacher evaluations that help them improve teaching.[3]

As with teacher questionnaires, student surveys of school climate can include questions about many different things, but some of the most commonly addressed topics include:

  • • Student-teacher relationships at school
  • • Students and learning
  • • Teacher involvement
  • • Students at home and in the community
  • • Student alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use
  • • Student mental health
  • • School climate
  • • Other student behaviors such as:
    • o Violence
    • o Bullying
    • o Absenteeism and suspension[4]

Sample questions on a school climate survey for students could include:

  • • Instructions: Please indicate the degree to which you believe the following statements are true or not true. Answer options include: not true at all, somewhat not true, somewhat true, or very true.
    • o I can talk to teachers freely and openly about my concerns.
    • o Teachers make all students feel like they belong at school.
    • o Students are picked on by other students for working hard at our school.
    • o My class sizes are too large for me to learn well.[5]


Why are School Climate Surveys for Teachers and Students Important?

In general, “[m]easuring school climate is critical for improving school climate because high-quality school climate data allow you to understand the perceptions of the students, staff, and parents in your school or district; monitor progress; make data-driven decisions; involve stakeholders; and adapt to shifting needs related to school climate.”[6]

More specifically, a wealth of research has been done on the impact of school climate on students and the learning environment. In fact, the surveying process itself is important because it “allows students to be citizens, rather than tourists in their school, as they realize they have an opportunity to participate in shaping the education process.”[7] Furthermore, a positive school climate has been associated with fewer behavioral and emotional problems for students[8] and it can significantly shape their degree of academic success.[9]

Similarly, school climate surveys specifically designed for teachers can be especially impactful for improving teacher retention rates and decreasing rates of staff burnout. In a journal article on the impact of school climate on job satisfaction and teachers’ sense of efficacy, researchers Taylor and Tashakkori found that a positive school climate is associated with increased job satisfaction for school personnel.[10]

Choosing the Best School Climate Survey for Your School

Clearly, school climate surveys for students and teachers can provide a wealth of information about the learning environment and the school at large. Schools can use the data garnered from these measurements to take effective, purposed steps towards improving areas in need and maintaining growth in areas of strength.

But all school climate surveys are not created equal, and it’s critical that decision-makers choose reliable, valid, scientifically-tested and approved measures to ensure results of the highest accuracy. And identifying the best surveys to evaluate your school’s climate can be an overwhelming task. That’s where having an independent, experienced surveying company on your side can help.

Pride Surveys has been helping schools survey their students and teachers for over thirty years, and we can work with you to identify your surveying goals and select the best school climate survey for your unique needs. Get in touch using our short online contact form or give us a call today at 877-957-6870.

[1]“What is School Climate and Why is it Important?” National School Climate Center. Retrieved from http://www.schoolclimate.org/climate/ on October 31, 2016.

[2]The Pride Teaching Environment Survey. Pride Surveys. Retrieved from http://www.pridesurveys.com/index.php/the-pride-teaching-environment-survey/ on October 5, 2016.

[3]Pride Teaching Environment Survey: Sample Questionnaire. Pride Surveys. Retrieved from http://www.pridesurveys.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2013-14-TES-Questionnaire.pdf?24559c on October 5, 2016.

[4]The Pride Learning Environment Survey. Pride Surveys. Retrieved from http://www.pridesurveys.com/index.php/the-pride-learning-environment-survey/ on October 5, 2016.

[5]Pride Learning Environment Survey: Sample Questionnaire. Pride Surveys. Retrieved from http://www.pridesurveys.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2013-14-LES-Questionnaire.pdf?24559c on October 5, 2016.

[6]ED School Climate Surveys (EDSCLS). Safe Supportive Learning. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/edscls on October 6, 2016.

[7]Freiberg, H. J. (1998). Measuring school climate: Let me count the ways. Educational Leadership, 56(1), 22-26.

[8]Kuperminc, G. P., Leadbeater, B. J., Emmons, C., & Blatt, S. J. (1997). Perceived school climate and difficulties in the social adjustment of middle school students. Applied Developmental Science, 1(2), 76-88.

[9]Haynes, N. M., & Comer, J. P. (1993). The Yale School Development Program process, outcomes, and policy implications. Urban Education, 28(2), 166-199.

[10]Taylor, D. L., & Tashakkori, A. (1995). Decision participation and school climate as predictors of job satisfaction and teacher’s sense of efficacy. Journal of Experimental Education, 63(3), 217-227.

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