Discussion Groups

School Climate

The subject of school climate is garnering nationwide attention as it is increasingly recognized as a critical driver of student and school success. In its most basic description, it refers to the full array of non-academic factors that help children feel supported and accepted as important members of their learning environment. Answers to questions such as “how connected do children feel to their school and staff?”; “how safe do children feel in their school environment?” and “do school sanctioned activities promote the development of the whole child?” help to define the health of the school climate in a particular school or school system. Of course, there are other important adult-related factors that also contribute to the health of the school climate.  Responses to questions such as “does your staff feel connected to and emotionally safe with each other?”; and “is your staff supported and encouraged in efforts to create effective learning environments that support a myriad of student learning and emotional needs?”, will help to fully assess how schools can focus on and improve the strength of its school climate as it affects the entire school community.

A Systemic Approach to Social and Emotional Learning

A focus on the school climate has been a cornerstone of the nation’s movement to incorporate a social emotional learning framework in schools. However, implementation efforts to date have had a narrow focus rather than a systemic approach. While single program implementation has important merits, we recognize that a shift in mindset that views social emotional learning as a whole systems approach is an important way to bring about true, long-lasting change in schools.