Take a moment and imagine a school in your district. How do you feel when you think about this school? Who are the students, teachers, and staff members you see? How do they seem to be feeling? What’s going on in the classrooms? Think about the physical environment. What does it look like? What posters and signs are on the walls? Do the students and teachers look happy?
All of these pieces work together to create the school climate, a collection of attributes that inform how students, families, faculty, and staff relate to each other and the school itself. While each person may have a different experience, everyone’s actions work together to create the overall character of school life, which can show larger trends within a school district.
In this post, we’ll explore what it means to have a positive school climate and the questions you can ask in a school climate survey to gather feedback to make your district a safe and supportive learning environment.
Gather stakeholder feedback with Panorama’s 360° Climate Surveys
The Effects of a Positive School Climate
Decades of research consistently show what educators often see first-hand—that a healthy and vibrant school climate leads to better student outcomes in academic achievement, social-emotional learning (SEL), behavior, and relationships.
So how can educators create the conditions necessary for this environment? The National School Climate Center lists the following as the four core components of a positive school climate:
- School safety: Perceptions of students' physical and psychological safety while at school
- Strong relationships: Perceptions of the strength of social connections between teachers and students within and beyond the classroom
- Effective and productive teaching and learning: Perceptions of the quality of teaching and amount of learning students experience
- Healthy, welcoming external school environment: Perceptions of the overall physical, social, and learning environment of the school
By working to improve each of these areas, school and district leaders can create a climate where students, educators, and family members feel safe, seen, supported, and welcomed.
Understanding Community Needs with School Climate Surveys
In order to take meaningful action on school climate improvement, educators need to understand the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of members of the school community.
A school climate survey is a great tool to gather valuable feedback from students, teachers, school staff, and family members. By elevating stakeholder voices, district leaders will gain important insights into the lived experiences of community members and be able to surface larger trends within the district.
Feedback from surveys gives district leaders important data that can be used to identify areas for growth and plan initiatives and interventions for improving school climate.
15 Questions to Ask in School Climate Survey
Based on the four elements of school climate described above, we've highlighted a selection of survey questions from three of Panorama’s survey instruments: the Panorama Student Survey, the Family-School Relationships Survey, and the Panorama Teacher Survey. These questions can help you learn about the teacher, staff, family, and student perceptions of school climate.
Questions for Students
- How often does this teacher give you feedback that helps you learn?
- At your school, how much does the behavior of other students hurt or help your learning?
- If you walked into class upset, how concerned would your teacher be?
- How fair or unfair are the rules for the students at this school?
- How often are people disrespectful to others at your school?
- How likely is it that someone from your school will bully you online?
Questions for Teachers
- How effective is your school's evaluation system at helping you improve?
- How often do you see students helping each other without being prompted?
- On most days, how enthusiastic are the students about being at school?
- How clearly can you explain the most complicated content to your students?
- How often do you meet in person with the families of your students?
Questions for Families
- To what extent do you think that children enjoy going to your child's school?
- How motivating are the classroom lessons at your child's school?
- Overall, how unsafe does your child feel at school?
- How fair or unfair is the school’s system of evaluating children?
Next Steps: Resources for Action
Using a school climate survey to collect feedback from family, faculty, staff, and students is an easy way to understand what’s happening district and school-wide. Surveys offer an important opportunity to improve school climate in ways that matter to your community to create a safe and supportive school environment.
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 the full pack of Panorama’s climate surveys to learn more about collecting high-quality feedback on climate from students, families, teachers, and staff this school year.
Download the full collection of Panorama's open-source climate surveys.