Frequently Asked QuestionsFind answers to frequently asked questions about improving school culture and climate
How can we learn more about your services and if they are right for our school?
Improving school culture, school climate, school safety, restorative practices, amplifying student and teacher voices...these are complex issues. The best way to see if we can help is to call us and talk to Bill or Holly. We can listen to your school's needs, show you how we might be able to help, and create a proposal designed to meet your school's needs.
What are the connections between school culture and school climate?
Research shows that 'school culture' (Hattie, 2016) is associated with the ways that adults work collaboratively together to learn, communicate, cooperate, solve problems and educate students. A positive, student-centered adult culture is what makes or breaks a school.
'School climate' is the feeling of safety, respect, connectedness, engagement, and enjoyment that students and adults feel when they enter and work in a school everyday. School culture dramatically impacts school climate!
Every great educator knows that 'Maslow comes before Bloom'!
Who are the real "experts" on school climate and culture?
Schools hire us because they believe that WE are the experts on school culture and climate. A principal, teacher or school board member may have learned about our work when they attended a national or regional education conference where Bill Preble was the keynote speaker. They may have attended one of the hundreds of professional development conferences, seminars, or workshops Bill or a member of our staff has lead. They may have read the Respectful School (2009, ASCD) that Bill co-authored with Steven Wessler, or Transforming School Climate and Learning (2011, Corwin) that Bill co-wrote with Rick Gordon; or seen one of the many book chapters or articles Bill has published in academic journals on our work over the last 20 years.
But we know that the REAL EXPERTS on school climate are your students, especially those students who struggle in your school or those who are marginalized based on their perceived "identities". These students see school climate up close and personal everyday. Students live, and tragically, sometimes die because of the climate and culture in their school. We need to seek and value the points of view and expertise of these students, to amplify their voices, and to help them learn to become effectives advocates and leaders.
When we work with a school, we work with school leaders and teachers to immediately identify, seek out, and "ask help" from these student experts. We do the same with teachers, who understand the "adult culture" inside their school. These teachers then work as partners with this "diverse team of students" to co-design and co-lead this work.
So, who are the real experts on your school? Of course, it's you.
What kinds of data are collected and how are they used in this work?
Alfred Binet said, "the best test, is many." We agree, so, we work with student and teacher leaders to collect and use multiple valid and reliable quantitative measures and qualitative assessments of school climate. We conduct school wide student, teacher and parent surveys to understand school culture, safety, discipline, engagement, relationships, student supports and student and teacher voice.
Data collection is one of the first leadership activities we do as we implement the 5 stages of the Safe Measures School Climate Leadership Process. We identify your school's needs using these data before we set goals for improvement.
Our teams compare the responses of different demographic groups in your school (based on gender, race/ethnicity, grade level, special ed status, ELL, and SES). Many schools leaders are amazed that there is no ONE SINGLE "school climate", but rather, the data often show that student and adult perceptions of school climate and culture are very different "depending on who you are".
Once our student and adult leadership teams understand the unique nature of school culture and climate at their school, and the gaps in positive perceptions among various groups, then they are ready to provide leadership.
How does "school climate CHANGE" actually happen?
Changing school climate is not easy. It takes time, administrative support, student engagement, teacher engagement and persistence. The SafeMeasures Process has proven to be effective in hundreds of K-12 schools and colleges and universities over the past 20 years.
We have found that a 2-year commitment to school climate leadership is essential for success.
In year one, we:
- Select and build an effective and committed Student Leadership Team (SLT) and an Adult Design Team (ADT).
- Collect school climate and culture data using valid and reliable quantitative tools.
- Gather and interpret rich, descriptive qualitative data to understand and be able to share the compelling stories of school climate and its effects within the school.
- Engage all teachers and students in the school in ways that build their awareness of the SLT and ADT, expand their interest in the possibilities for improvement, and build increasing personal engagement in the work.
In year two, we:
- Continue leadership development with the SLT and ADT.
- Implement 'sweet spot" pilot Action Projects.
- Take what was learned from the pilot projects and expand, deepen and broaden the number and scope of our leadership projects and activities to move toward school wide action.
- Collect a second round of data to assess progress and improvement.
- Celebrate successes and plan for sustaining the work.