by Kimberly Beltran, SI&A Cabinet Report | http://bit.ly/1on2hPU
September 26, 2014 :: (Calif.) A biennial state survey of junior high students and teachers can serve as a valid indicator of middle school climate, according to new federal analysis released this week.
After reviewing seven years of survey responses coming from more than 730,000 seventh graders and some 16,000 teachers in California middle schools, U.S. Department of Education researchers concluded that the California School Climate, Health and Learning Survey provides a sound measure for assessing school environment.
“The study finds that student and staff surveys validly and reliably assess distinct school climate domains, such as safety and connectedness, meaningful participation, bullying and discrimination, and caring staff–student relationships,” wrote authors Thomas Hanson and Adam Voight of WestEd, the research firm that handled the project for the DOE’s Institute of Education Sciences.
The school climate survey initiative is a federally-required program under No Child Left Behind but the findings in the new report – “The Appropriateness of a California Student and Staff Survey for Measuring Middle School Climate” – also come as state education officials restructure school accountability requirements to include more than just test scores.
Finding valid and reliable data that measure somewhat unquantifiable educational aspects or outcomes – such as “career ready” or “positive school climate” – has been problematic, often simply because the information hasn’t been collected.
In their report, Hanson and Voight reference study after study that point to a direct correlation between positive school climate and better academic results. Improving school climate can lead to better attendance, fewer drop outs, reduced teacher turnover and higher student proficiency in core subjects,
Having used school climate assessments in their progress reporting systems, a growing number of states and school districts are now interested in incorporating these assessments into their accountability systems, Hanson and Voight wrote.
That includes the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) – a consortium of 10 of the largest local education agencies in California –which, the authors said, has proposed building school climate measures into its school accountability system, “which would place school climate alongside standardized test scores as a component of high-stakes accountability. All these efforts require assessments with proven validity for interpreting scores as measures of school climate.”
By running the survey response information through three analytic strategies, the research team was able to determine that it can be used to “validly and reliably assess student perceptions about six school climate domains,” as well as teacher perceptions on seven domains.
The student domains were:
- Safety and connectedness
- Caring relationships with adults
- Meaningful participation
- Substance use at school
- Bullying and discrimination
The teacher domains were:
- Support and safety
- Caring staff–student relationships
- Staff–peer relationships
- Professional development needs
- Student health and engagement
- Student delinquency.
- Resource provision.
The survey responses were collected from students representing 1,117 middle schools between 2004-05 and 2010-11, and from teachers representing 85 middle schools between 2008-09 and 2011-12.
Students respond to 40 survey questions/statements related to their in-school experiences, such as “I feel safe at school” or “I have friends at school.” Teachers answer 64 staff questions or respond to statements such as “This school is a supportive place for students to learn,” and “I need training in meeting academic standards.”
“All the school climate measures exhibit adequate respondent- and school-level reliability, indicating that the survey items measuring school climate at the respondent level do so consistently and can be used to identify differences in average school climate across schools,” the analysts concluded, noting that to obtain reliable school-level climate scores, a school must sample at least 100 students and 10 teachers.
“All the school-level school climate measures were associated in expected ways with student academic performance and suspensions,” they also pointed out,” they said. “Student performance was higher and suspension rates were lower in schools with a positive school climate. These results support the validity of the survey measures for each of the school climate domains identified in the study.”