2019 School Climate & Connectedness Survey Results within STEPS Alaska

By Jenni Lefing, School Climate and Conference Coordinator

School climate matters. How students, staff, and families feel about their school’s climate and how connected they are to adults and peers, impacts academics, high school graduation, attendance, and psychological health.

Conversations with school staff, families, and students in our STEPS communities confirm that relationships with school staff, school safety, and connection impact their own interest in school, attendance, and engagement. On the other end of the spectrum, schools with lower rated school climates have been linked to depression, low self-esteem, lower academic achievement.

Brain scientists have even begun to show that brain development and learning is directly linked to how safe and supported students feel in their school and at home.

A strong school climate benefits each student, including students in higher risk circumstances or students who have been historically marginalized from the school.

As a predictor of student outcomes in school and outside of school, the School Climate and Connectedness Survey (SCCS) is used as a key measure within the STEPS partnership and school climate strategies as a central approach to transforming outcomes for students.

School Climate in STEPS Communities:

In 2019, the SCCS was taken by 833 3rd to 5th graders, 1,959 6th– 12th graders, 375 staff, and 664 family members within the STEPS Neighborhood. The results give a snapshot of student, staff, and family perceptions of the school and provides insight on where to focus school climate building efforts.

Highlights from the 2019 STEPS Neighborhood:

  • 3rd& 6th graders reported the highest school climate scores.
  • 10thgraders reported the lowest school climate scores.
  • 65% of 3rd-12thgraders and 81% of staff reported feeling safe at school.
  • ¾ of STEPS community students reported that there are high expectations for students and strong community support within their school.
  • More than ¼ of students reported that school staff would not miss them if they were absent from school.

Working Together:

At the STEPS Partner meeting held for all sub-grantees in April, attendees looked at their own student, staff, and family results in teams. Each group selected a few topics to dive into, and answered these questions as a first step in looking at their results:

  1. What do you see?
  2. What stands out to you?
  3. What do you want to know more about? What questions do you have?

Groups reflected on what students, staff, and families had to say, and started to think about how they can use this data in their STEPS work.

This was the first time we looked at what students and families had to say. It gives us a way to talk about what we are seeing and what we can do to better support our students and families.

– Teacher attending STEPS partnership meeting

Understanding school climate to transform school climate for all students takes partners working together.  This may include continuing conversations with larger school, community, student, and family groups, or having AASB staff facilitate these conversations with your team in person.

We were able to have a deeper conversation when we developed our school action plan, so I know that staff was highly engaged and used the data to help us better serve.

– STEPS Community Principal

Resources for STEPS partners:

Through the SCCS platform – available here – you can look at your student, staff, and family surveys side by side. You can look at the individual questions asked and you can even better understand the results by groups such as grade level, gender, grades received, and race/ethnicity.

Some recommended STEPS for each district and community

  1. Send out the link to the results to key stakeholders(to include district leaders, school board, school staff, key community partners).
  2. Set clear times and ways to look at the data together.  Districts that set aside intentional time for staff, school board members, district leaders, and others to review and have conversations around the results, identify focus areas, and create action steps are more likely to see improved school climate outcomes.
  3. Share action steps. Once action steps are identified, share and gather input on how steps can be implemented, and continue to visit these steps throughout the year.
  4. Decide how to keep the conversation and next steps moving forward. Decide key timelines, actions and check-in dates for “action-based” teams.

AASB can provide on-site tailored support for continuing conversations via in-person workshops, video-conferencing, or through the development of reflection tools and questions to drive school climate data-driven decisions.

Making School Climate Review an Annual Practice:

Many districts annually use findings from these workshops to help with strategic planning, board goal setting, and creating school improvement plans.

Districts are encouraged to have these workshops in the spring or early fall (such as during staff in-service), so the results can be a useful planning tool for the school year.

School Climate & Connectedness Survey (SCCS) results are intended to give districts and communities a “snapshot in time;” a glimpse into how students, staff, and family members were feeling about their school and community at the time of the survey. This “snapshot in time,” is a conversation starter to improve school climate.  And, when looking at these results along with other data for your communities, such as attendance, graduation, and student assessments, you can have a more complete picture to make data-informed decisions.

For example, STEPS partners from one district noted that their caring adults indicator was high but the peer climate sections was pretty low.

Another district was surprised that cultural connectedness was rated quite low by students and not by school staff. These are conversation starters to begin having discussions to better understand the “why” under the “what”. These conversations can help to ensure that the community and school are working together on the right strategies to impact change within the school.

Not Just School Climate Data:

There are some related questions incorporated in to the SCCS survey that are used for tracking other key areas for STEPS. These include:

  • Internet Access (staff and family surveys)
  • Reading Activity (family survey)
  • Parents Talking About Post High School Graduation Plans (family survey)
  • Social and Emotional Skills (students and staff)

Please do not hesitate to contact Jenni Lefing at jlefing@nullaasb.org with questions about the survey and to figure out how your district can make the most of your school climate data.

To Access 2019 Statewide Results go here:   Alaska Statewide Link   To access district results, contact School Districts.