School climate is an important lever for improving school safety, the quality of teaching and learning, and the strength of relationships in your school or district. Collecting feedback from families, students, and teachers and staff through a school climate survey is essential to building the strong, welcoming relationships that are for integral school and district success.
At Panorama, we work closely with thousands of schools to measure, understand, and act on school climate data. In this post, we explain why assessing and acting on school climate matters for educators and administrators, and how you can use school climate surveys for improvement.
Introduction to school climate surveys
School climate is a collection of attributes that govern how students, families, faculty, and staff relate to each other and the school itself. A strong and vibrant school climate can be developed and strengthened over time by understanding the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of members of your community.
According to the National School Climate Center, the four core components of positive school climate include:
- Strong relationships
- Effective and productive teaching and learning
- Healthy, welcoming external environment
All stakeholders should feel that the school has norms, values, and expectations that make them feel safe, respected, and engaged; that there is a shared school vision that all stakeholders are working towards; and that educators model and nurture positive associations with learning.
What the school climate research says
For over a hundred years, educators and researchers have emphasized the importance of a healthy and vibrant school climate. Research consistently demonstrates that positive school climate improves the quality of teaching and learning in the school, and helps promote healthy youth development.
School climate plays an integral role in creating engaging educational experiences for students and families, and in supporting faculty and staff professional growth. For more information about why a vibrant school climate is integral to school and district success, read “A Review of School Climate Research.”
Gathering feedback with a school climate survey
Everyone—students, families, faculty, and staff—has a critical role to play in the development of strong and healthy school climate. Panorama's survey instruments for each stakeholder group gather perceptions of school climate in the four categories outlined above (safety, relationships, teaching and learning, and external environment).
Measuring the strength of your school or district’s climate is an opportunity to engage your community in defining what healthy school and district climate means in your context, using these criteria as a framework. But understanding how to collect high-quality school climate data is critical towards building the school climate that you and your community want.
Learn how Park Hill School District gathers student voice on school climate to drive improvement.
Choosing your survey instrument
Based on the four elements of school climate described above, we've highlighted a selection of survey questions from the Panorama Student Survey, the Family-School Relationships Survey, and the Panorama Teacher Survey. These feedback surveys can help you learn how stakeholders perceive the key aspects of school climate in your school community:
Perceptions of students' physical and psychological safety while at school
— How often do you worry about violence at your school?
— How often do students get into physical fights at your school?
— How often are people disrespectful to others at your school?
Perceptions of the quality of teaching and amount of learning students experience
— How much does this teacher know about the topic of his/her class?
— How often does this teacher give you feedback that helps you learn?
— For this class, how clearly does this teacher present the information that you need to learn?
Perceptions of the strength of social connections between teachers and students within and beyond the classroom
— How respectful is this teacher towards you?
— If you walked into class upset, how concerned would your teacher be?
— When your teacher asks how you are doing, how often do you feel that your teacher is really interested in your answer?
Perceptions of the overall social and learning climate of the school
— How often do your teachers seem excited to be teaching your classes?
— How pleasant or unpleasant is the physical space at your school?
— How fair or unfair are the rules for the students at this school?
Next steps: resources for action
Using a school climate survey to collect information about family, student, faculty, and staff perceptions is an easy way to understand what’s happening in your community. School climate surveys offer an important opportunity to start making change in the areas that matter in your community's context.
From our work with schools and districts around the country, we’ve produced a set of resources that will help you meaningfully understand and act on your school climate data. Download Panorama's School Climate Survey template to learn more about collecting high-quality feedback on climate from students, families, teachers, and staff.