• Home
  • Blog
  • Student Positivity: Key to Better School Climate?
better school climate

Student Positivity: Key to Better School Climate?

An expanding wealth of research draws a bright line between student performance and school climate.

One study, released last year by the U.S Education Department, found a direct correlation between how students felt about their school’s climate and how well they performed academically.

It makes sense: Safer, healthier, and happier schools make better learning environments for students.

“When classrooms are open and inviting, students tend to engage better and more completely with schoolwork,” writes Dr. Stephan Knobloch, a veteran school researcher and chief learning officer at K12 Insight (which produces TrustED). “When parents are invited into classroom conversations and expected to be involved in the learning process, support for schools and for teachers tends to increase.”

Still, many school leaders struggle with implementing effective strategies to produce a consistent, positive climate in their schools.

While districts often focus on initiatives like improving school safety or boosting academic support, a new report from the education technology and training company Kickboard says that school leaders should focus on cultivating a core set of student behaviors that contribute to a positive school environment.

This behavior-focused approach to school climate is based on the concept of a three-to-one (3:1) positivity ratio. The idea is that when students experience three positive emotions for every one negative emotion, they’re more likely to excel.

Want more on school climate and quality? Sign up for the TrustED newsletter.

Teachers then, the thinking goes, should focus on ensuring that 75 percent of their students’ behaviors are positive.

But how do we quantify positive behavior. More important, how can educators cull positive behaviors from students?

The report’s researchers pored over seven years of digital logs, tracking student behavior in 645 schools. They then used that data to create the Positive School Culture Inventory (PSCI)—a list of the most important positive behaviors exhibited by students that lead to a more positive school climate.

Behaviors on the PSCI include: showing pride in school; cooperation; collaboration; using appropriate communication; kindness; pride in one’s work; self-reliance; effective time management; making insightful comments; a love of learning; active listening and engagement, among others.

By arming educators and school leaders with this list of behaviors, researchers hope districts can shape new strategies toward the goal of improving student positivity.

If nothing else, this new inventory points to a growing need for school districts to comprehensively track all aspects of school climate—beyond student discipline reports or school safety complaints.

Benchmarking progress

Last summer, K12 Insight released its inaugural school climate benchmarking study, which compared the perceptions of parents, students, and teachers in participating school districts about school climate. While the study revealed some important perception gaps between students and their parents and teachers, it also demonstrated a need for more comprehensive school climate tracking systems in schools.

What steps does your school or district take to measure its school climate? Do you consider student positivity when evaluating climate? Tell us in the comments.