Here you will find tips and tools to help you improve school climate.
1. Learn about School Climate
Several organizations focus on demonstrating the importance of school climate to student health, learning, and success, as well as on sharing proven strategies for improvement with educators and their partners.
National School Climate Center
The National School Climate Center provides educators, mental health professionals, after-school workers, and parents with tangible strategies for improving school climate. NSCC’s website has information on school climate and a variety of free resources, as well as other resources and services available for a fee.
WestEd promotes excellence, equity, and improved learning for children, youth, and adults. WestEd offers resources and professional development on improving school climate, including a Workbook For Improving School Climate and Closing the Achievement Gap. WestEd also administers and analyzes California’s SCHL-S surveys, which include the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) (completed by students) and the California School Climate Survey (CSCS) (completed by teachers). These surveys provide essential insights into school climate on California’s school campuses, and both CHKS and CSCS results are available online.
California School Boards Association
The California School Boards Association has recently updated and expanded its toolkit for school board members and school administrators: Safe Schools: Strategies for Governing Boards to Ensure Student Success. The toolkit offers a comprehensive look at school climate and includes current bullying and harassment issues, such as cyberbullying and LGBT safety concerns.
Alliance for the Study of School Climate
The Alliance for the Study of School Climate, at Cal State Los Angeles, presents research on school climate, as well as resources and services for schools and organizations working to improve school climate.
Center for School, Health and Education
The Center for School, Health and Education, at the American Public Health Association, offers resources on school climate, including an article on the the Role of School-Based Health Care in improving school climate.
Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY)
RJOY works with Oakland schools to promote restorative approaches that actively engage families, communities, and systems to repair harm and prevent re-offending. This video captures the power of restorative justice to positively impact student relationships and school culture. RJOY also provides links to a variety of restorative justice resources.
Aggression and Violence and the Achievement Gap Among Urban Minority Youth
This article, by Charles E. Basch, describes how disproportionate exposure to aggression and violence contribute to the achievement gap. It highlights the extent of aggression and violence in cities and outlines ways schools can prevent and address the problem. (It is part of a series titled Healthier Students Are Better Learners, published as a special edition of the Journal of School Health and available for free online.)
2. Conduct Assessments
School health professionals can develop a process for conducting health and psychosocial assessments of individual students with behavioral problems, as identified by school administration, teachers, and security.
Bright Futures Tool and Resource Kit
Bright Futures is a national health promotion and disease prevention initiative, led by the American Academy of Pediatrics, that addresses children’s health needs in the context of family and community. Bright Futures offers a Tool and Resource Kit, including age-specific visit forms and developmental, behavioral and psychosocial screening and assessment forms, that school health professionals can use with children and youth from birth through 21.
Adolescent Health Working Group Toolkit
The Adolescent Health Working Group developed a helpful toolkit for delivering adolescent health care, including conducting psychosocial assessments. Adolescent Health Care 101: the Basics – CA Edition offers guidance and forms for providers to conduct a HEADSS assessment (Home, Education/employment, Activities, Drugs/alcohol/tobacco, Sexuality, and Sadness/self-Image/depression/suicide), as well as a self-assessment for teens to complete themselves.
Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine – Adolescent Health Survey
The Health Survey for Adolescents was developed by University of Rochester Adolescent Medicine Division faculty as part of an initiative originating from the New York State Department of Health Office of Managed Care to improve preventive health service delivery to adolescents. The survey and explanatory provider information manual offer a brief tool used to assess high priority risk behaviors, such as unintentional injury, nutrition, exercise, tobacco and other drugs, mental health, and sexual health.
3. Provide Therapeutic Support
School health professionals can work with school administration and in conjunction with the school’s disciplinary process to provide therapeutic support programs, as well as personal and social skill development programs, to students with behavioral problems. These might include:
- Individual counseling and case management;
- Conflict mediation;
- Group counseling/skill development groups (for example, anger management);
- Facilitated peer support and peer counseling programs;
- Youth development programs, including youth leadership;
- Alcohol, drug, and tobacco use awareness and treatment programs, as well as programs to support students in alternative strategies for managing stress; and/or
- “Alternatives to” or “in-house” suspension programs that focus on behavior change and may result in modified/ reduced disciplinary action for students.
Adolescent Health Working Group Toolkit
The Behavioral Health: Adolescent Provider Toolkit was created by the Adolescent Health Working Group. Developed by and for health care providers, it offers detailed guidance and forms for conducting different types of behavioral health assessments, as well for brief office interventions and comprehensive counseling guidelines. It is available for free download; hard-copies can be ordered for $15.
Alternatives to Suspension Self-Assessment
This tool is designed for SBHC teams to assess their role in supporting students with challenging behaviors and advising school leaders around implementing alternative-to-suspension programs.
Virtual Toolbox for Mental Health in Schools
This toolbox, from the Center for Mental Health in Schools, contains a wide variety of resources for school mental health practitioners and educators. Among other things, it has strategies for embedding mental health into a comprehensive classroom and school-wide system for addressing barriers to learning and teaching.
For additional resources, please see our Behavioral Health Resources webpage.
4. Deliver or Support Schoolwide Programs
SBHCs and other school health professionals can foster a positive school climate by delivering or supporting schoolwide programs that build positive peer support, respect, safety, and academic engagement (e.g., in-class curricula, schoolwide behavior reinforcement system, awards/assemblies).
CDC’s School Health Guidelines to Prevent Unintentional Injuries and Violence
The CDC has outlined a set of principles and a series of recommendations that schools can use to prevent unintentional injuries and violence, many of which are focused on improving school climate.
Fix School Discipline Website and Toolkit
Public Counsel has developed a Fix School Discipline webpage, available in both English and Spanish, to help communities and schools update their discipline rules with the latest, research-based methods. It includes ready to use tools and practical advice on how to implement positive behavioral interventions and supports, adopting restorative practices, and much more.
Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) Program
In 2010, California received a Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This grant supports statewide measurement of school climate, as well as targeted programmatic interventions to improve school climate. Comprehensive high schools with the greatest needs related to school climate, including several with school-based health centers (SBHCs), have received funding, and SBHCs are key partners in climate improvement efforts.
For more on the S3 program, visit WestEd’s S3 website, which includes detailed information, a wide variety of tools and resources, and archived technical assistance webinars. Many of WestEd’s resources will be useful to anyone working to improve school climate. Information is also available on the CDE website.
Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
This Center, established by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education, provides information for schools and families to help them start, run, and support PBIS programs. The website includes a comprehensive section outlining the current research on PBIS implementation in schools.
WestEd offers a variety of resources and professional development on improving school climate, including a Workbook For Improving School Climate and Closing the Achievement Gap.