The California School Climate Survey for school staff is an important component of a comprehensive, coordinated effort by the California Department of Education (CDE) and WestEd to help schools foster positive learning and teaching environments that promote academic achievement and youth well-being. The survey helps identify fundamental learning barriers and assess the need for learning and teaching supports. As a companion to the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) for students, it enables districts and schools (school-level reports available on request) to compare both student and staff data. The survey is supported by a wide range of technical assistance, guides, and trainings for administering the survey and using the data.
Purpose: Why Conduct the Survey?
According to the National Research Council, the fundamental challenge to school reform is to create a set of circumstances in which students take pleasure in, and see the value of, learning, and have the supports they need to be able to learn. In its seminal report on Engaging Schools (NRC, 2000), the Council further stressed that the level of teacher engagement and support at a school is equally critical. The CSSS is designed to provide the kinds of data that schools need in order to create that set of circumstances and realize the highest performance among both students and staff.
To-date, school reform strategies have primarily focused on improving academic curriculum, instruction, and governance. They have largely ignored the school context and the non-cognitive, environmental factors (often called school climate) that can impede students’ motivation and readiness to learn and, in turn, their ability to benefit from improvements in instruction or curriculum.
Equally important is the influence of school climate on instruction and a school’s ability to attract and retain quality teachers. Research on teacher attrition, both in California and nationally, has suggested that workplace conditions, control over the workload, and perceptions about administrative support are highly correlated to attrition rates. They may be as important (or even more important) than salary (Futernick, 2007). Drugs and violence on campus, lack of parental involvement, overcrowding, inadequate facilities, and lack of teacher supports and involvement in decision-making all contribute to problems in recruiting and retaining teachers.
Questions the CSSS Can Help Answer
- Does the school provide students with an inviting, supportive, and culturally relevant learning environment?
- Are all students treated fairly, with respect, and given equal opportunities, regardless of their race or ethnicity?
- Do students encounter high expectations for academic success and rigorous classes?
- Are students motivated to learn? What learning barriers do they appear to be encountering?
- Is school a safe place for students and staff?
- How much of a problem for the school are student drug use, violence, truancy, etc.?
- Do school programs and resources address student success and achievements as well as student problems and needs?
- Do staff feel responsible for improving the school?
- Do staff support, trust, collaborate, and have close professional relationships with each other?
- Are staff provided the materials, resources, and training they need to do their job, and what are their professional development needs?