Abstract: Do Schools Really Use School Climate Data to Inform Decisions? (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

188 Do Schools Really Use School Climate Data to Inform Decisions?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Seacliff C (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Katrina J. Debnam, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Kelly Edwards, MS, Professor, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Dewey Cornell, PhD, Professor, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
School climate is widely recognized as a critical factor in violence prevention and school safety. Students attending schools with a structured and supportive school climate are more engaged, have higher attendance and academic achievement, and are more likely to graduate. Thus, reports by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice and other leading authorities in educational research and violence prevention have called for increased awareness, measurement, and improvement of school climate. Most notably, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has made it a national priority to measure school climate as an indicator of school quality. The attention to using school climate as an accountability measure highlights the need to help schools assess and make use of school climate data. However, to date, we know very little about how school stakeholders leverage climate data. The purpose of this study was to explore how stakeholders access and use data in a state currently administering an annual climate survey to students and staff.

Interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of thirty school stakeholders. Maximum variation sampling was used to solicit feedback from stakeholders that reflect the state’s diversity of race/ethnicity, income level, and population density (urban, suburban, and rural). Participants included five persons from each stakeholder group: school division leaders, school-level administrators, teachers, mental health staff, school resource officers, and parents. During the interviews, participants were provided a copy of the results from their school climate survey administration and asked to provide feedback on their understanding of the school climate survey report, how they use the data, and what they would recommend changing or improving to increase data use.

Qualitative content analysis will be used to identify themes and patterns in the data. Interview transcripts will be read to get a sense of the whole, and then coded line-by-line, using codes inductively developed from the data. Related codes will be grouped together into categories. As the analysis proceeds, patterns and relationships, both within and across codes, will be sought. Themes, or expressions describing some aspect of the participants' experience, will be derived for this analysis.

Preliminary themes emerging from the data include: a) goal setting and priorities, b) comparability and contextual differences of schools, c) trustworthiness of student responses, and d) parsimony in data reporting. Additional analysis of emerging themes will be conducted to better understand how school stakeholders process data and to inform improvements to the structure and content of school climate data reports.