Due to recent and notable school shootings, the climate and safety of students in schools is a specific area of concern for the public. Recent state and national policies (e.g., Every Student Succeeds Act) reflect a movement toward recognizing school climate as a distinct measure of school quality; 22 states have integrated school climate policy into their school improvement and accreditation systems. Research shows that 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. However, there are several gaps in our understanding of how school climate is improved in practice. This symposium will present a series of papers focused on school climate and safety, specifically, school safety practices, the use of school climate data in decision making in schools, and the perception of school climate globally.
The first paper, “Planning for A Crisis, but Preparing for Everyday: What Predicts Schools’ Preparedness to Respond to a School Safety Crisis?” investigates school crisis procedures in practice. This paper examines the presence of crisis plans in schools and knowledge of correct crisis procedures by school staff. Results show that while many schools have detailed and comprehensive plans posted throughout the school, gaps exist in staff members knowledge about how they will be notified in a crisis.
The second paper, “Do Schools Really Use School Climate Data to Inform Decisions?” will explore how key school stakeholders understand school climate data, how they use the data, and what they would recommend modifying to increase data use by practitioners. Qualitative data collected from 30 school stakeholders reveals some consistent themes in goal setting and priorities, contextual differences of schools, trustworthiness of data, and parsimony in data reporting.
The third paper, “A Systematic Review of the Link between School Climate, Academics, and Behavior: A Global Perspective” will present how school climate is conceptualized globally and how school climate impacts students in these contexts. Results show a general lack of consensus around what constitutes school climate or how to measure school climate globally, but that associations with academic and behavioral health outcomes are relatively consistent across studies.
The discussant will highlight common themes across the three talks, including issues related to data dissemination, policy, and practice. Implications for increasing our understanding of school safety and climate for school violence prevention will be discussed.