Evaluating school climate survey data can act as a compass in the journey of improving school climate; and like a compass, you have to know how to read it to help you navigate! Fortunately, there are many tools and resources available to help you make sense of your data. This post focuses on data related to school climate surveys1 and features the Data Interpretation Resources and Reference Manual included in the School Climate Improvement Resource Package (SCIRP). The Data Interpretation Resources and the Reference Manual (in particular, Activity Set 3) include numerous resources available to you during the process of working with your data. If you are not sure where to start, consider the following questions: What school climate data do you have? How do you make meaning of your school climate data?
What school climate data do you have?
School-level data take many forms – counts and rates (e.g., incidents, attendance, suspension/expulsions), surveys (e.g., surveys that evaluate school climate or evidence-based programs), and qualitative information (e.g., collected from focus groups, classroom observations, interviews). School climate survey data are made more meaningful when combined with several other types of data because they provide additional evidence about your school climate. A first step is to determine which data are valid, reliable2 and available. It is often helpful to look beyond your school or district for comparison data such as state and national data that can provide greater context for your data. For information on effectively using data for action, check out NCSSLE’s online module “Integrating Different Data Sources to Understand School Climate”. For tips and suggestions on selecting various types of school climate data see Objective 1.3.4 on page 40 in the Reference Manual.
How do you make meaning of your school climate data?
Once you have gathered your data it is time to bring them together. Using multiple sources of data better reflects the experiences of school community members and ensures that data-based decision making is grounded in a nuanced and thorough understanding of the school. To get an idea of how you can pair data and school initiatives to provide a picture of school climate, check out the online module “Putting Your Data in Context: A Big Picture View of School Climate.” Also, within the Data Interpretation Resources you can find a Data Interpretation Guide on Making School Climate Improvement that can help you examine your school climate survey data to aid in understanding perceptions of school climate in your school(s). If you want to dig deeper into certain topics such as bullying or cultural and linguistic competence, the Data Interpretation Resources include 13 Data Interpretation Topical Discussion Guides within 3 domains – Engagement, Safety, and Environment. To see an example of how a school has made meaning of their data, check out the webinar Data, Data, Data: How to Make Sense of It All, from Michigan’s Safe and Supportive Schools grant project, which discusses Michigan’s vision and interpretation of its school climate data. NCSSLE also offers a webinar, Using Data to Identify Programmatic Interventions on how schools can systematically review their data to help identify evidence-based programs for their school(s).
Making meaning of your school climate data will give you a better understanding of strengths and successes and any gaps and concerns in your school(s). The context your data provide can also garner powerful buy-in from stakeholders and help your school(s) make data-driven decisions in school climate improvement efforts.