top of page

Taking a Deep Dive into Campus Climate

<img src="" alt="school_climate2" width="700" height="400" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-15690 lazyload" srcset=" 700w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px" />

O’Dowd is undertaking a climate survey in which students, faculty and staff and parents will be asked to participate.

The California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey (CAL-SCHLS), which can be accessed online in early November, was developed by WestEd, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research development and service agency that works with educational communities throughout the United States and abroad to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth and adults. The survey is “the oldest, largest, most comprehensive state effort in the nation to provide local school-communities with their own data on school climate and engagement, student substance use and other risk behaviors, social-emotional health, and overall well-being to guide data-drive program decision making.”

Director of Health and Wellness Mark Lederer said this climate survey initiative is “an unprecedented effort in our school history to survey these three major stakeholder groups, with a normed metric for students that allows for comparison with faculty and parent perceptions.” The information collected will provide a core set of data that can be used to drive decision-making around school climate issues.

“While we have a wealth of excellent faculty, staff, and administrators with a range of knowledge and experience, we really don’t know specifics within and across stakeholder groups, and we don’t have a common set of data to ground our discussions in seeking to make school improvements” he said. “We are a diverse community and we want all our stakeholders to have a voice in shaping the climate of our school. This is an attempt to be inclusive and equitable in making decisions for the health and wellness of our community.”

Principal JD Childs said it’s important to have a baseline assessment of O’Dowd’s strengths and “pain points.”

“We can intuit where there are areas that need more attention, but we are interested in understanding more specifically informed with data,” Childs said. “Once we get our baseline analysis through the climate survey, then our improvement efforts will be able to become more intentional and therefore more focused.”

<img src="" alt="school_climate" width="700" height="400" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-15691 lazyload" srcset=" 700w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px" />

Lederer explained that school climate is different from school culture, though the two are intertwined. Whereas school culture can be described as the personality of the school, the written and unwritten norms and structures of a school, the school climate is the attitude people have about these norms and structures. For instance, the new flex periods are an aspect of O’Dowd’s school culture, while the attitude students have about the flex periods – for example, feeling more or less or cared for as learners – is an example of school climate.

In addition to providing general information about learning and teaching conditions and possible barriers, the survey data will also help school leadership understand similarities and differences in perception between stakeholder groups and in subgroups. Furthermore, the data gathered from the CAL-CHLS will allow O’Dowd to compare itself with other schools in the local and state communities as well as provide a support network that can be tapped into as needed for processing the data with the stakeholder groups.

The effort to assess school climate is closely aligned with the school’s charism. “For example, our call to social justice compels us to reach out as wide as possible to include everyone and to hold ourselves accountable as the degree to which we are inclusive, and our call to academic excellence extends to creating a school climate of care and accountability for the whole child” Lederer said. “To foster joy, we are seeking to create a climate in which we can grow in our awareness of our shared inherent human dignity, which is in essence the foundation of our capacity to experience the infinite love of God and to share that love in community.”

Lederer said students who feel cared get more out of their education. “Research consistently shows how students who are supported in their social and emotional growth achieve better academically,” he said.

O’Dowd leaders will benefit from having a data-driven foundation for how to prioritize and be more purposeful in decision-making around school climate issues, Lederer said.

The climate survey is only part of O’Dowd’s effort to enhance the health and wellness program, Childs said. “Students learn best who are mentally, socially, and emotionally healthy. So, in service to building the most robust academic program, we want to set our learners up for success, certainly. But I also believe that our health and wellness program expansion is about being a school that is future-oriented. We want to equip our students with what they need to succeed now, but also for the future.”

<img src="" alt="school_climate3" width="700" height="400" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-15692 lazyload" srcset=" 700w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px" />


bottom of page