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New Jersey School Climate Improvement (NJ SCI) Survey
The New Jersey School Climate Improvement (NJ SCI) Survey was developed by the School Climate Transformation Project (SCTP) via a collaboration between Rutgers University and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). The NJ SCI Survey is a comprehensive instrument designed to help schools identify school climate strengths and needs, and use these data to create strategic plans to improve conditions for teaching and learning. Click the button below for a list of domains, or major topic areas, covered on the NJ SCI Survey for students, staff, and parents and caregivers. The NJ SCI Survey is administered to all stakeholders through the new web-based NJ SCI Platform. The survey and associated communication tools are available in multiple languages for students and parents and caregivers.
The NJ SCI Survey will replace the New Jersey School Climate Survey (NJSCS). Revisions to this instrument have been guided by a rigorous review of current research literature and analyses of previously collected NJSCS data from schools across New Jersey. The NJ SCI Survey development process included an expansive stakeholder input process to ensure the survey would meet the current and emerging needs of K-12 schools in the state of New Jersey.
New Jersey School Climate Improvement (NJ SCI) Platform
The New Jersey School Climate Improvement (NJ SCI) Platform is a free, web-based application designed to increase district and school access to tools and resources for data-driven school climate improvement planning and implementation. Select features of the platform will be launched in fall 2021, to support leadership team development, data collection, and data reporting and analysis. NJ SCI reporting features will allow school-based users to disaggregate data by demographic groups, easily compare similar domains and items across stakeholders, view automated insights and recommendations about the data, and bookmark indicators for discussion and intervention.
Additional features to support strategic planning and implementation efforts, including goal development, school climate strategy selection, and progress monitoring, will be launched as they become available. The platform will be able to facilitate storage of local and supplementary school climate data, generate automated graphs to help schools track progress toward school climate goals, and provide tools for staying on track throughout the change process.
The NJ SCI Survey and Platform enable districts and schools to take a “blue sky” approach to imagining the possibilities for improving their cultures and climates for all school community stakeholders. See images below for a preview of the NJ SCI Platform interface.
School climate encompasses the dynamic and diverse feelings, perceptions, and impressions as experienced by school community stakeholders – in other words, the quality or experience of how it feels to be a part of the school community from one’s unique identity and perspective.
Stakeholders’ perceptions of school climate can change over time and are shaped by factors at various levels. At the broadest level, national and societal events and conditions can influence policies at the state and local levels. The local community context plays a role in shaping conditions in the school building, and within the school, smaller group contexts like classrooms create their own micro-climates and norms of behavior. Each individual person’s experiences of school life are shaped by their unique identity and background, in interaction with other members of the community.
Approaching school climate within this framework attends to the ways race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status (i.e., class), gender, sexuality and other social factors operate within and across contexts to shape school environments and experiences. Such an approach also better positions schools and districts to understand equity as a core characteristic of school climate and culture, and a vital component for shaping efforts to effectively understand and address school needs.
Research has consistently shown the importance of promoting a positive school climate*. As the central aim of schooling, it is important to note that positive school climate is related to student academic achievement. Positive school climates foster the physical, psychological, and social and emotional well-being of both students and staff. Promoting the overall well-being of all students and staff creates the conditions for effective teaching and learning and supports stakeholders’ emotional growth.
*Bohanon, Flannery, Malloy & Fenning, 2009; Brand, Felner, Seitsinger, Burns & Bolton, 2007; Cohen, McCabe, Michelli & Pickeral, 2009; Hosford & O’Sullivan, 2016; Kutsyuruba, Klinger, & Hussain, 2015; Thapa, Cohen, Guffy, & Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2013; Wang & Degol, 2015.
The School Climate Change Process (SCCP) developed by the School Climate Transformation Project (SCTP) at Rutgers University, is based on a behavioral consultation model designed to promote changes in systems and behaviors. The SCCP is part of a theory of action that involves a range of critical steps for success and conditions that support the development and implementation of a comprehensive school climate improvement plan.
Schools begin the SCCP by forming a high-functioning school climate leadership team (SCLT) comprised of diverse school stakeholders that drives and monitors improvement efforts. Teams collaborate to collect and analyze school climate data from multiple school stakeholders and use these and other data to drive goal development and alignment of strategies to goals to build a comprehensive and coordinated strategic plan. Development of this comprehensive strategic plan requires ongoing communication and collaboration with school community stakeholders. This helps to ensure equitable access to data and feedback throughout the change process and is essential for achieving goals.
Once schools begin to implement their plans, they evaluate progress and make necessary modifications based on new data and information collected. Schools continuously cycle through this process, collecting data and evaluating progress over the course of several years. Research suggests systemic, positive changes related to school climate improvement typically take three to five years*.
Leadership support and coordination at the district level is vital to starting and continuously cycling through the SCCP. District leaders champion the importance of this work in the community and enact leadership skills and competencies to drive the SCCP, including: aligning a district’s vision and values to school climate goals and priorities, engaging various key stakeholders, and providing structures and supports to enable individuals and teams to effectively and efficiently facilitate school climate improvement activities. Equity, particularly as it relates to communicating and engaging with school community stakeholders, is prioritized throughout each element of the SCCP and is attended to by both district – and school-level leaders.
*Cawelti, 1999; Protheroe, 2011.
The School Climate Transformation Project is a partnership between the NJDOE and the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology that provides supports to K-12 schools in New Jersey in using a multi-year school climate change process for developing inclusive and positive school climates. Through consultation and professional development opportunities, the SCTP supports school leadership teams in using data to develop a comprehensive plan for addressing school climate needs.