Papers & Briefs

This special CEP report highlights findings about the critical element of school climate from case studies of the first year and half of SIG implementation in Maryland, Michigan, and Idaho. The information in the report is based on interviews with 35 state, district, and school officials in the three states and on in-depth reviews of six SIG-funded schools. Key findings about school climate are presented from these case studies.

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right: Why Zero Tolerance is Not the Solution to Bullying (2012)

This policy brief critiques current zero tolerance responses and bully prevention policies. A series of research based policy and practice recommendations are suggested for federal, state, district and school leaders.

The School Climate Challenge; National School Climate Council (2007)

In order to formulate ways to meet the policy, practice and teacher education challenges, the Center for Social and Emotional Education, currently the National School Climate Center, and the Education Commission of the States (ECS) convened a “thinkers meeting” (April 2007) and a “professional judgment group” (October 2007) of national experts. This paper outlines recommendations made by this School Climate Council for policy makers and teacher educators.

In July 2011, The National School Climate Center (NSCC) completed a 50-state policy scan on state school climate and anti-bullying policies to better understand the current state policy infrastructure supporting the development of positive school climates. This policy brief examines the current status of state policies on school climate and anti-bullying policies, and provides policy examples and recommendations for policymakers, districts, schools and school climate advocates to consider.

The School Climate Standards were developed by the National School Climate Council and scores of other educators, mental health professionals, family, school board and other community leaders to delineate a set of benchmarks that districts and/or States can adopt or adapt. These benchmarks provide a framework to begin to define what we can and need to do to support children and adolescents developing in healthy ways and learning. For this paper, we have invited a group of building, district, State and national educational leaders to comment on the following five questions:

  1. Do we need national school climate standards? Why or why not?
  2. What do you most value and agree with about these standards? Is they're something important that is, in your view, missing?
  3. What do you most dislike and disagree with about these standards?
  4. How could standards like these be used most helpfully to support student learning, positive youth development and the promotion of skills, knowledge and dispositions that support an effective and engaged citizenry? And,
  5. What are the most important recommendations you would make to teacher educators, school leaders, teachers/ others who seek to implement the standards?

We hope that these commentaries spur discussion, reflection and debate.

The Center for Educational Policy has conducted a study about how School Improvement Grants (SIGs) are being used in the field. This study highlights findings about the critical element of school climate from case studies of the first year and half of SIG implementation in Maryland, Michigan, and Idaho. The information in the report is based on interviews with 35 state, district, and school officials in the three states and on in-depth reviews of six SIG-funded schools.

Over the past two decades, researchers and educators have increasingly recognized the importance of K-12 school climate. This summary builds on our 2009 school climate research summary (Cohen, McCabe, Michelli, & Pickeral, 2009) as well as our 2010 School Climate Research Summary and details how school climate is associated with and/ or promotes safety, healthy relationships, engaged learning and teaching and school improvement efforts. With a few exceptions, the citations in this issue represent empirical studies that have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

School Climate: Research, Policy, Practice, and Teacher Education; Jonathan Cohen, Elizabeth M. McCabe, Nicholas M. Michelli, & Terry Pickeral (2009).

A review of the literature reveals that a growing body of empirical research indicates that positive school climate is associated with and/or predictive of academic achievement, school success, effective violence prevention, students’ healthy development, and teacher retention. There is a glaring gap between these research findings on the one hand, and state departments of education, school climate policy, practice guidelines, and teacher education practice on the other. We detail how the gap between school climate research, policy, practice, and teacher education is socially unjust and a violation of children’s human rights. We now have research-based guidelines that predictably support positive youth development and student learning. If we do so, we are supporting children, educators, parents, communities, and the foundation for democratic process, but as a country, we are not doing so. Our children deserve better. A series of detailed recommendations are suggested for policy makers, practice leaders, and teacher educators to narrow this gap and support student’s healthy development and capacity to learn.

This important paper examines those drivers typically chosen by leaders to accomplish reform in the US and Australia, critiques their inadequacy, and offers an alternative set of drivers that have been proven to be more effective (in Finland, Korea, Hong Long, Singapore and Canada) at accomplishing the desired goal.

How the World's Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better; Mona Mourshed, Chinezi Chijioke, & Michael Barber (2010).

a report that examines 20 school districts around the world: a unique contribution to this critical global agenda. Building on their 2007 study but with much more precision, in this remarkable report McKinsey looks closely at schools that are various levels of functioning around the world and identifies what is most effective to focus on, depending on the schools level of functioning. These performance stage continua—from poor to fair, fair to good, good to great, and great to excellence—are in turn unraveled according to intervention clusters within given contexts. In each case it is very clear that all improving entities, even if their starting point is dismal, are led by a combinations of leaders who are self-aware that they are engaged in a phenomenon that the report calls ‘it’s a system thing’—a small number of critical factors that go together to create the chemistry of widespread improvement.

School Climate Guide for District Policymakers and Education Leaders; Terry Pickeral, Lou Ann Evans, William Hughes, & David Hutchison (2009).

This guide, a companion to the National School Climate Standards, identifies quality practices in school climate that can lead to student achievement and success; various policy options that encourage, support and reward implementation and sustainability of a positive school climate; and strategies to ensure alignment of quality practice and supportive policies based on research and evidence of practice. Finally, the guide identifies frameworks, tools (specific instruments schools can use to measure and improve school climate), resources and responsibilities of district policymakers and education leaders.

This paper examines how schools can promote democratic knowledge, skills and dispositions, using examples from the United States that can be considered, adopted and/or adapted in nations throughout the Americas. Civics education in the United States has tended to focus on civic knowledge (how government works, voting policies, etc.) rather than skills and dispositions. Additionally, the paper briefly reviews the evolution of how educational and political leaders have considered the relationship between social, emotional, ethical, civic and intellectual skills, knowledge and dispositions and democracy. The authors suggest a model of essential social, emotional, ethical and cognitive skills and dispositions that provide the foundation for participation in a democracy. The authors then outline two essential goals that K-12 schools need to consider to effectively promote these capacities.

In this article, Jonathan Cohen argues that the goals of education need to be re- framed to prioritize not only academic learning, but also social, emotional, and ethical competencies. Surveying the current state of research in the fields of social- emotional education, character education, and school-based mental health in the United States, Cohen suggests that social-emotional skills, knowledge, and dispositions provide the foundation for participation in a democracy and improved quality of life. Cohen discusses contemporary best practices and policy in relation to creating safe and caring school climates, home-school partnerships, and a pedagogy informed by social-emotional and ethical concerns.

The partners who have created this follow-up to the 2003 Civic Mission of the Schools (CMS) report share the belief that the well-being of our body politic is best served by an informed, engaged citizenry that understands how and why our system of government works. As this call-to-action argues, civic education not only increases citizen knowledge and engagement, but also expands civic equality, improves twenty-first century skills, and may reduce the dropout rate and improve the school climate.

The civic education movement spawned by CMS eight years ago has accomplished much, but much remains to be done. To improve civic literacy, skills and engagement, this report proposes that schools adopt six proven practices in civic learning, ranging from high-quality classroom instruction to several innovative pedagogies and activities outside of formal classes. Additionally, two important policy areas are spotlighted: assessment of civic learning and the role of teacher professional development. The report also lays out an agenda for a wide range of stakeholders including policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels; academics and researchers; funders; the media; and parents. These recommendations were crafted at a conference of national leaders in civic learning in March 2011, convened by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools and the National Conference on Citizenship. And like the first Civic Mission of Schools report, this report reminds its readers that the country shortchanges the civic mission of its schools at its peril.