Positive School Climate and School Connectedness
School climate is the “quality and character of school life.” (Cohen, J., McCabe, E.M., Michelli, N.M., & Pickerall, T. (2009). School Climate: Research, Policy, Practice, and Teacher Education. Teachers College Record, 111(1), 180-213.) It is the sum of the values, norms, expectations, and spaces that shape the social and physical environment of a school, making it a place that may feel safe and welcoming or hostile and intimidating. School connectedness exists when children feel engaged with their school and cared for by school personnel. School climate and connectedness can be mutually reinforcing.
Together, school climate and connectedness are associated with sexual violence, youth violence, bullying, suicide, and, in some cases, teen dating violence. They are also tied to academic achievement, school attendance, and health risk behaviors such as alcohol, drug use, and early sexual initiation.
Programs and policies to improve school climate and school connectedness usually take place in the school, but can involve the community more broadly, as is the approach of organizations like Communities in Schools. Strategies can focus more narrowly on individual students’ feelings of commitment to school, as well, by engaging families and other supportive adults in efforts to boost a child’s enthusiasm for school and willingness to discuss issues they may encounter while at school.
Resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National School Climate Center, National Association of School Psychologists