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Friday, April 18, 2014

Office of Student Support and Safety

Karen Webber-Ndour, Executive Director

Brandon Tilghman, Executive Assistant
Office of Student Support and Safety
The Office of Student Support and Safety provides a comprehensive and integrated system of student support services enabling City Schools to fully meet the social, emotional and academic needs of all students. This integrated system also supports and maintains positive school climates. 

What is School Climate?
While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact definition of school climate, it can generally be understood as the tone, feel, and character of a school's atmosphere. Four components contribute to a positive school climate: 

1.        Relationships

·         Positive relationships are critical to creating a positive school climate

·         3 types of relationships contribute to the process:

1.        Adult-to-Adult Relationships

-        Adults should model positive behaviors and interactions to intentionally create positive schools climates

2.       Adult-to-Student Relationships

-        Students are more likely to attend school when they have positive relationships with a caring adult at school

3.       Student-to-Student Relationships

-        Positive peer relationships allow for students to feel emotionally and physically safe and, thereby, create a strong peer community within the school

2.      Teaching & Learning

·         Engaging instruction is at the core of a positive classroom environment

·        The inclusion of  hands-on student-centered learning helps with student engagement

·         Teachers should provide ample supports and opportunities for student success 

3.      Environment

·         Welcoming, well-lit, and clutter free environments that highlight student achievement show an investment in the school and its students

·         All buildings can be clean and well-maintained


4.      Safety

·         A primary goal of school climate is that students and adults feel physically, mentally, and emotionally safe

·         School Police and other security personnel should be fully embedded in the school community and actively participating in building a positive school climate.

Measuring School Climate

Climate Report: Quantifying school climate can be difficult but certain data points and surveys can help paint a picture. The Office of Student Support and Safety routinely disseminates school-level Climate Reports showing comparisons across two years of:

·         Enrollment

·         Suspensions – cut in a variety of ways

·         Chronic absence

·         Attendance

·         Withdrawals

These reports take a snapshot of the school based on the same number of school days for this year and last year.

An example of a Climate Report can be found here.
Climate Walk Tool: This tool is used by members of the school community to comment on specific climate-related observations in the school, and provides a feedback loop to school leadership regarding areas of strength and areas of concern. The tool contains 20 focal points in the following six areas:

·         School Entrance

·         Physical Environment

·         Student/Staff

·         Transitions

·         Classrooms

·         Other Aspects of the School Environment

The Climate Walk Tool can be found here.

Safety Walk Tool: This tool can be used by school police and other members of the school security team to assess the safety and security of school buildings. 20 focal points cover issues including visitor protocols and procedures, securty of entrances and exits, and monitoring procedures.
The Safety Walk Tool can be found here.
School Climate Training
In July 2012 the Office of Student Support and Safety held the first annual School Climate Training with approximately 32 school teams. Our primary objectives were to institute a common definition of school climate, introduce new tools to help schools develop positive school climates, and refresh the conversation about the need to utilize alternatives to suspension in order to make suspensions the disciplinary measure of last resort. We were successful in presenting new school climate tools for use by the climate cohort. We also presented a City Schools’ definition of School Climate:

The elements in a school related to relationships, teaching and learning, physical environment and school safety. Each of these components is critical to building a positive school climate.

We learned that City Schools’ students who are chronically absent score lower on standardized tests than their peers who attend regularly. We also learned that students who were suspended even once in an academic year perform substantially below those students who were not suspended. Further, students who were suspended two or more times performed below even those students who were chronically absent (defined as missing more than 20 days in a school year). After reviewing these and other school specific data, thoughtful school climate plans were drafted within individual school climate teams. The solid drop in the number of out of school suspensions district-wide were even lower in the schools that participated in school climate training.

Materials about School Climate