School climate is the quality and character of your school life. It is the way we feel about being in school. Do you feel safe? Are you connected to caring adults? Do parents feel welcome?
School climate matters because it shapes the learning experience. Think about it this way, can you concentrate in class if you are afraid of walking the hallways, or would you attend a parent conference if you felt unwelcome? Everyone contributes to the school climate.
Over the months of December 2012 and January 2013, the Hartford Public Schools asked similar questions in a survey to students, parents and staff across the school district.
Last year Achieve Hartford! provided an independent breakdown of the school climate and connectedness survey conducted by the Hartford Public Schools and we wrote about the results in this paper.
This year's report is finalized and we are back again to share the results with the Hartford community. The full report is available at www.achievehartford.org, below is our summary of key observations.
As it turns out, parents have a more positive view of the school environment than do the students and staff in the schools. Looking at the ratings given to school safety issues on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, students in Grades 5-12 averaged 3.4, staff 3.8 and parents 4.2. Moreover, in 17 schools, the students in grades 5-12 rated the peer climate (student to student) as unsatisfactory, which indicates that much work remains to create the positive school cultures so needed for students to learn at school.
Other key observations include the fact that non-resident students and parents rate school climate higher than Hartford resident students and parents.
The majority of parents surveyed responded they are satisfied with their child's school, so the question is; given the very low performance of some schools in Hartford, what are the parents satisfied with? This is an area we intend to explore further and welcome your feedback to get at the answer.
But the biggest story in the report may be just the overall increase in survey participation this year over last year. Parent participation rose to 50 percent from 29 percent last year and school staff participation was 87 percent (up from 52 percent last year). The full report gives details on exactly what the District did to produce such an increase from last year.
The school district will use the report to work on ways of improving school climate but it is also an opportunity for students and parents to know what role they can play to create better learning environments in our schools. We look forward to reporting on recommendations that are implemented as a result of the findings in the report and what difference they have on school culture in the future.
In addition, school by school reports have been created for every surveyed school and we plan on bringing that information directly to each school's parent groups and PTO's.
With more information accessible to parents and the community comes an opportunity for discussion and improvement.