In the spring of 2013 the BRIDGES Team began to talk about change. Where was change happening in schools? What was working? What was improving the lives of staff and students? As we learned more about new trends in improving school climate, the conversations got exciting! We saw much of our program was already reflected in the research, but we had to deepen our efforts and expectations if we wanted Orange County schools to truly be safe and respectful places for ALL.
We decided we must challenge ourselves and our partner schools to reach higher and have faith that we are all up to the task. We were thrilled to find out that many of you shared our vision. So far, many have reported positive benefits as a result of these changes. In order to maintain this momentum, we wanted to introduce you to some of the research that informed this process and made us realize what it will take to create a comprehensive effort to improve school climate.
The National School Climate Standards: Benchmarks to promote effective teaching, learning and comprehensive school improvement: These standards are very detailed, they include 5 large categories with 16 indicators and 30 sub-indicators. What this document shows us is that creating and sustaining a positive school climate is not done through a series of activities or workshops alone, but through a determined and dogged effort that, over time, impacts school policy, classroom practices, parent engagement and student development.
Dimensions of School Climate: There are 12 dimensions of school climate ranging from policies to physical environment. We have identified 4 dimensions that the BRIDGES Program can address and measure: Rules & Norms, Sense of Social-Emotional Security, Respect for Diversity, School Connectedness/Engagement.
School Climate Practices for Implementation and Sustainability: The 11 issues selected to be included in this set of Practice Briefs are based on National School Climate Council’s decade-long work with the entire academic community—teachers, staff, school-based mental health professionals, students and parents—to improve a climate for learning. It helps to create a roadmap for schools and, again, gives us a sense of what it takes to be committed to improving school climate.
These documents and others can be found at www.schoolclimate.org and www.colorado.edu/cspv/schoolclimate.html.