Writing for the Shanker Institute, Matthew Kraft and Grace Falken explore the importance of school climate for both teachers and students. Excerpts of the piece appear below:
The quality of a school’s teaching staff is greater than the sum of its parts. School environments can enable teachers to perform to their fullest potential or undercut their efforts to do so.
School climates consist of a constellation of organizational features that shape teachers’ and students’ experiences. Strong school climates are characterized by supportive leadership, teacher collaboration, high expectations for students, and a collective commitment to support student learning. Teaching is a social career, and the relationships that teachers have with those who support their work in the classroom-administrators and colleagues-heavily influence teachers’ satisfaction and success.
Strong professional environments foster a virtuous cycle in which teachers develop skills faster, stay at a school longer, and improve student learning year over year.
Efforts to strengthen school environments should begin with identifying school-specific structural or cultural weaknesses. Several state education agencies now administer annual climate surveys to teachers and students statewide to inform and track schools’ improvement efforts and allow for district-level comparisons across the state.
Principals are key change agents in efforts to improve school climate (Boyd et al. 2011). Effective principals develop a collective commitment among their staff and a collaborative work environment. School leaders accomplish this by setting and consistently upholding school norms, providing opportunities for teacher leadership, and conducting rigorous screening processes for vacant teaching positions that seek to identify both strong teachers and those who are a good fit with the culture of the school.
When schools raise expectations for students and provide the necessary organizational support to achieve those standards, high standards become both empowering and attainable. Every school can improve its conditions for working and learning.