School Climate

Improving Academic Outcomes through Enhanced Conditions for Learning

The Tennessee Department of Education has been awarded a discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support district and school measurement of, and targeted programmatic interventions to improve, conditions for learning. Tennessee is one of 11 states that have been awarded this grant. We are the only state that has developed our own survey to determine conditions for learning and that intend to connect academic data to the conditions for learning data. 

Mission & Goals

The overall mission of the Safe and Supportive Schools (S³) Project is to ensure safe and supportive learning environments, thereby increasing academic success for all students.The project strives to:

  • Develop a system that collects and synthesizes building-level student, parent, and teacher perceptions of engagement, safety and environment to provide an actionable measurement of conditions for learning. 
  • Provide data to the education community that enables the effective and efficient allocation of resources while identifying the relationships that exist between conditions for learning and academic outcomes.
  • Establish a Center for School Climate to provide ongoing, meaningful, professional development to teachers and school leaders and to engage students, parents and the broader community in a process of continual improvement

Frequently Asked Questions

What is school climate and why is it important?

School climate refers to the quality and character of school life.  School climate 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.  Research and practice have demonstrated that positive school climate is associated with stronger academic performance, higher graduation rates, decreased incidences of violence and increased teacher retention.

Why is a school climate measurement system necessary to improve conditions for learning?

Education in Tennessee is a data-driven enterprise.  While there is general consensus as to the importance of school climate and other conditions for learning, data is not available to support good decisions regarding the allocation of limited resources and/or the effectiveness of various policies and practices in bringing about improvements. The data from the system being built through the Safe and Supportive Schools Project will help the education community better understand the relationships between conditions for learning and academic outcomes and better utilize available time and resources.

What exactly is being measured?

The Tennessee School Climate Survey collects student perceptions of three broad areas of their school experience: (1) engagement (2) safety and (3) environment. The chart below provides greater detail about the components.  While the survey process currently collects only secondary student perceptions, additional mechanisms currently under construction will collect perceptions of middle school students as well as school staff and parents.  

The Tennessee School Climate Model

Engagement

Supportive Relationships, School Connections and Learning Supports, and Parental Involvement

Supportive Relationships

A positive school climate requires that students have supportive relationships with peers, teachers, staff and school leadership.

School Connections and Learning Supports

Students should believe that they are valued members of the school setting, feel a sense of meaningful involvement, security, and belonging in the school environment and feel that they are supported in their efforts to succeed.

Parental Involvement

Student perceptions that parents are welcome in the school and that their parents are interested and involved in their learning contributes to a meaningful connectedness to the school.

Safety

School as a Safe Place and Freedom from Substance Abuse

School as a Safe Place

For students to focus on learning, they must feel safe and secure while at school and free from threats or physical violence, bullying or harassment.

Freedom from Substance Abuse

Substance use is associated with negative school performance.  Students need to be free from distraction or concern related to peer substance abuse while at school or school sponsored events.

Environment

Academic Challenge, Supportive Discipline, Approval of Physical Environment

Academic Challenge

School work needs to be clearly presented and designed to be challenging with sufficient support to achieve.  Student achievements need to be noted and positive feedback provided.

Supportive Discipline

Rules and disciplinary procedures need to be clear, well communicated and reasonable.  School leaders, teacher and other staff should be perceived as fair in implementing rules and procedures.  Fairness requires consistency and equity in applying rules, including consistency across individual teachers and school staff.

Approval of Physical Environment

Students should feel the physical environment is welcoming, comfortable and attractive.  Students should feel a sense of ownership in the school building.

Learn more about the Tennessee School Climate Model, including resources to improve school climate, by visiting the website for Safe and Supportive Schools.

Last Update: September 9, 2014