Benefits of Developing a Positive School Climate 

 

Four benefits of a positive school climate: increase in academic performance and graduation; increase in student and educator emotional wellbeing; increase in student ability to overcome challenges; safer schools with fewer discipline referrals

 

 

 

 

 

There are many benefits that come from developing a positive school climate where both students and school staff feel safe, supported, and cared for. Below are a few of those benefits. 

Increase in student academic performance & graduation: Research shows a positive school climate improves a student’s ability to learn.1 Schools with positive school climates  observe increases in student math and reading scores and higher graduation rates.1

Increase in student & educator emotional wellbeing: School connectedness and feelings of safety and belonging at school are two of the most influential factors associated with student emotional wellbeing.2 Likewise, positive relationships with other educators and a supportive work environment protects against educator stress and burnout.3 

Increase in student ability to overcome challenges: Students who feel supported and cared about in school report fewer behavioral health concerns, such as feelings of hopelessness, especially during times of challenge or adversity.4

Safer schools with fewer discipline referrals: According to the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education, creating a safe and connected school climate is the best way to prevent acts of violence from occurring in school.5 A positive school climate is protective against bullying and other undesirable student behaviors resulting in fewer discipline referrals and better classroom management.6   

Access the Positive School Climate Informational Flyer

 

 

Creating a Safe and Connected School Climate for American Indian Students 

A positive school climate, where students feel safe and connected, is critically important to academic success as well as emotional wellbeing. However, very little research and literature exists to guide schools on how to create a positive school climate for American Indian students. The recommendations featured in this guide are informed by the research literature that is available as well as the lived experiences of a group of Montana Urban American Indian students.  

 

 

Components of a Positive School Climate

 

Engagement

Engagement: Strong relationships between students, educators, families, and schools and strong connections between schools and the broader community. 

Educator wellness and resilience skill development

Restorative practices and trauma-informed approaches implemented across an entire school system and applied to both students and school staff can be used to intentionally foster educator wellness and improve school climate. 

In partnership with the Montana Safe Schools Center, the OPI is pleased to offer this on-demand training on educator mental health and wellbeing to support Montana's school staff. The Secondary Trauma Self- Assessment and Secondary Trauma Agency Assessment can be used with this video training to provide school staff with information on secondary trauma and resilience, build the resilience skills of educators, and provide school districts with information and resources on creating a trauma-informed school climate. Additional tools include:

Additional guidance and tools to support educator wellness:

Incorporating student voice

Schools that honor and elevate youth voice and engagement use student perspectives and experiences to shape the ways schools operate to support student learning. Unless youth voice is gathered, schools may never have an accurate perception of the relationships that are crucial to the development of a positive school climate. Once school administrators and staff begin to understand the perspectives and experiences of students they can honor and elevate the voice of youth by incorporating youth voice into policy and procedure development and many other aspects of school life. 

Resources: 

  • Facilitating Listening Circles (International Institute for Restorative Practices)- This professional development resource provides information and guidance on facilitating listening circles to provide students and school staff with an opportunity to speak and listen to each other.
  • Youth Voice Best Practices (Carlow University)- A toolkit for venter youth voices in educational programming.   

Positive relationship building

Strong relationships between students and school staff

Ensuring every students feels he or she has a trusting relationship with at least one adult at school is important component to creating a positive school climate. Schools can encourage school staff to continually monitor students and offer support when needed and show they are about their students' wellbeing. 
Resources: 
  • Relationship mapping (Harvard)- Relationship mapping is a no-cost, highly impactful strategy to help ensure each student at a school has a positive relationship with at least one staff member
  • Facilitating Listening Circles (International Institute for Restorative Practices)- This professional development resource provides information and guidance on facilitating listening circles to provide students and school staff with an opportunity to speak and listen to each other.

Strong relationships among school staff

Building a community of support among school staff, including between school administrative staff and school personnel, is vitally important to creating a culture of respect and understanding that benefits both students and adults. Building a strong foundation of positive relationships among school staff will help establish and maintain a positive school climate. 

Resources: 

  • Facilitating Listening Circles (International Institute for Restorative Practices)- This professional development resource provides information and guidance on facilitating listening circles to provide school staff with opportunities to speak and listen to each other and build community.

Strong relationships with families, caregivers, tribes, and community members 

Forming strong partnerships between schools, families and caregivers, tribes, and community members has many benefits and crucial to building engagement between schools, families, and communities.

Resources:

Safety

Safety: School and school-related activities where students are safe from violence, bullying, harassment, and controlled substance use. 

Bully and cyberbully prevention

It is important for schools to take a proactive approach to preventing bullying and cyberbullying and quickly respond when bullying does occur. Restorative practices can be used to respond to bullying behaviors and protect the establishment of a positive school climate. 

Please visit the OPI's Bullying Prevention site for information and resources to prevent and respond to bullying. 

Child abuse prevention

Protecting children from all forms of abuse and neglect is of the upmost importance for supporting student wellness and success. 

Please visit the OPI's Sex Trafficking and Sexual Abuse website for more information and resources. 

Emotional safety

According to the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, "emotional safety in schools refers to how safe a student feels in expressing their emotions in school.  Students should feel secure and confident as they express themselves and take on challenges that encourage them to try something new". 

 

School emergency planning and safety

It is important that students, families, and school staff feel confident that school is a physically safe place. Maintaining safe school campus, developing and implementing a school emergency operations plan, and incorporating school safety drills can help strengthen the physical safety of a school building. 

Please see the OPI's Emergency Planning and Safety website for more information and resources including Emergency Operations Planning and school safety Drills and Exercises. The Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety resource guide is a great resource for schools who are interested in taking a holistic and balanced approach to promoting a safe school.    

 

School violence prevention

Preventing violence within the school and at school-sponsored events is a critical component to the development of a positive school climate. 

Please see the OPI's School Violence Prevention website for more information on how to prevent school violence and support students who are in distress. The video below outlines guidance from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education on how to create a safe and connected school climate to prevent violence.  

 

Substance use prevention

Establishing a school campus that is free from controlled substance use will help establish a positive school climate. The same is true for school-sponsored events that may take place off of school grounds. 

Please see the OPI's Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Tobacco Use Prevention websites for more information and resources on preventing controlled substance use.  

Suicide prevention

Montana Crisis Action School Toolkit on Suicide (CAST-S) on-demand training video: In partnership with the Montana Safe Schools Center and NAMI-Montana, we are pleased to offer this on-demand training on how schools can work to prevent and respond to youth suicide using the Montana CAST-S. The CAST-S was developed by state and national experts to provide schools with the information and tools needed to prevent suicide from occurring, effectively react to student suicide ideation and attempt, and respond when a suicide does occur (postvention) to prevent further tragedy.

 

For more information, please visit the OPI's Suicide Prevention website.

Environment 

Environment: Appropriate facilities, well-managed classrooms, available school-based health supports, and clear, fair disciplinary policy.  

Restorative practices and school discipline

How schools implement discipline impacts the climate of a school. In turn, the climate of a school will influence behaviors and increase or decrease the need for disciplinary measures. For more information, please visit the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environment's webpages on school discipline

School-based health supports

Accessing health services may be challenging for some students and their families, yet unmet health needs will effect student wellness and behaviors in ways that effect a students ability to actively engage in school. By providing school-based health supports (e.g. school nurses, school-based health services) and/or helping link students to community supports, schools can help students access needed care that will foster wellness and contribute to a positive school experience and more positive environment.  

Creating School and Community Partnerships

To support students, families, and school staff a school may consider developing a partnership with an organization operating within the community. The video below outlines why and how a school can form a partnerships with a community organization and how to create a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to formalize the partnership. To support school and community partnerships, we have also created:

  • sample memorandum of understanding (MOU)
  • A memorandum of understanding (MOU) google doc template

Other resources can be found at: 

Trauma-informed practices

Trauma-informed practices contribute to the positive climate of a school by recognizing the role traumatic experiences have on student brain development, ability to learn, and behaviors, and actively working to mitigate the negative effects of trauma and causing additional trauma. A trauma-informed approach is often guided by the "Four R's" (SAMHSA): 

  • Realize the widespread impact of trauma and understand potential paths for recovery
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in both students and adults 
  • Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
  • Actively resist re-traumatization 

The OPI's Trauma-Informed Schools website has additional information and resources for school use. Other recommended resources are below: