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For COVID-19 Recovery Efforts, School Climate Matters Now More than Ever


As school buildings reopen after weeks of pandemic-induced closures, school climate will matter more than ever, say the authors of the latest issue of the State Education Standard. State policymakers and education leaders can plan now to create safe, supportive learning environments ready for the return of students and teachers to classrooms. The articles in The Standard provide a roadmap.

Learning Policy Institute’s Linda Darling-Hammond, chair of the California State Board of Education, and colleague Jennifer DePaoli set the stage, defining why school climate matters and how to improve it. They outline tasks for school leaders in making sure teachers have what they need to forge the strong relationships that undergird student learning and for state policymakers in supporting teachers and leaders. Brown University’s Matthew Kraft and Grace Falken argue that improved school climate may be the key to greater teacher retention and can help teachers improve their craft more quickly.

Randy Ross and her colleagues at the National School Climate Center see school climate as rooted in educational equity. They reflect on the profound inequities within school communities that the coronavirus laid bare and argue that schools that improve their climates may also be building resilience in the face of crisis.

Turnaround for Children’s Pamela Cantor and Nora Gomperts show how the science of learning and development can be harnessed to help schools nurture the whole child. “Given the right conditions, what any child is capable of, almost all children are capable of,” they write. “Furthermore, research reveals what the right conditions are.” For example, creating positive developmental relationships, such as those between educators and students, can protect children, at a cellular level, from the negative effects of stress and adversity. In the wake of COVID-19 and the trauma many students will have experienced, cultivating such relationships will be more important than ever.

David Osher and colleagues from the American Institutes for Research liken school climate to physical health: There are reliable, valid measures to improve a school’s “vital signs” that can aid in planning, improvement, and account­ability. They highlight examples of how states and districts leverage climate surveys to do this work. Taylor Allbright and Heather Hough at Policy Analysis for California Education look at what a consortium of California districts have learned in using measures of social and emotional learning to improve school climate.

Child Trends’ Kristen Harper urges states and districts to take a broader, deeper look at school culture, process, and practice as they address the dispari­ties across race and students with disabili­ties in school discipline practices.

Lastly, in a piece about the harassment and bullying that LGBTQ students face, GLSEN’s Aaron Ridings writes, “When educators make schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ students, schools are safer for all students.”

Read and share the “school climate” issue of The State Education Standard.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org

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