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School Culture and Climate

Understanding and Cultivating a Positive School Climate

The School Climate Transformation office, in partnership with Colorado State University, has released a White Paper, Understanding and Cultivating a Positive School Climate, that highlights the research linking a positive school climate to a sense of belonging for students, staff, and families. For students, this sense of belonging contributes to increased attendance and engagement in school, higher grades, decreased discipline incidences and drop out rates, all of which lead to increased academic achievement [Cohen, J., et al. (2009); Taylor, R. D., et al. (2017).; Loukas, A. (2007)]. For staff, this sense of belonging enhances staff wellbeing and retention and decreases emotional exhaustion and burnout [Cohen, J., et al. (2009); Singh & Billingsly, (1998); Grayson & Alvarez, (2008)].  Additionally, this paper also examines the best practices according to the literature, on how to improve school climate including attending to physical and psychological safety, creating quality teaching and learning experiences, as well as how to foster the behaviors, skills, and mindsets that lead to student and staff wellbeing. 



How to Assess School Climate Using Multiple Measures

Wondering how to measure school climate? In addition to administering surveys that assess perceptions of school climate with students, staff and families, there are many other ways to assess and understand your school’s culture and climate. It is important to measure school climate to understand the extent to which the environment and the relationships centered in the school building are positive, create a sense of belonging for all, and support students to succeed academically.

Assessing School Climate Using Multiple Measures



In 2018, CDE was awarded a School Climate Transformation Grant from the U.S. Department of Education to identify and support funded districts to implement the best practice strategies for improving school climate through Colorado’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (COMTSS). School Climate is multi-faceted and refers to the Environmental, Relational, and Instructional factors that support students Cognitively, Socially, and Emotionally [(Fischer, K. W., & Bidell, T. R. (2006)]. The following represent areas that fall under the school climate umbrella.


  • Mental Health/Trauma Awareness
  • Behavior/Discipline
  • Social Emotional Leaning
  • School Safety (physical, social-emotional, identity, academic)
  • Relationships/Connectedness
  • Equity/Inclusiveness/Cultural Responsiveness
  • Whole Child Efforts
  • Student Engagement
  • Family, School and Community Partnering
  • Staff Retention and Wellbeing

Theory of Action about School Climate Work

Theory of Action for School Climate. Full alt text available at

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For more information, please contact:

Andrea Pulskamp