The Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) – formerly the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools – awarded in October 2010 a four-year, multimillion-dollar Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) grant to the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). The agency, in turn, established the Kansas S3 Continuum, a subdivision of its Research and Evaluation team charged with executing the tenets of the grant. The overarching goal of the S3 Grant is to improve school climate by way of data collection (survey and incident data) and evidenced-based interventions.
The S3 grant is designed to support measurement of Conditions for Learning (also known as school climate) and targeted programmatic interventions to improve those conditions at the high school (grades 9-12) level. OSHS has divided school climate into three categories: engagement, safety and environment. More detailed information about these categories is available under the “Topics & Research” tab at http://safesupportiveschools.ed.gov/index.php?id=01.
A growing body of research shows that school climate strongly influences student achievement. When school members feel safe, valued, cared for, respected, and engaged, learning increases. Schools that provide students with supports to meet these basic needs allow them to grow socially and emotionally and avoid problems like emotional distress, violence and drug use.
Positive school climate must be a shared goal, created and sustained by students, parents, and school staff, and supported by the community. A school’s mission statement, policies, procedures, and practices should all address the importance of positive school climate. In order to have a meaningful and sustainable effect, efforts to improve school climate must be an integral part of school improvement plans addressing academic, social, and emotional learning. Schools also need to understand the institutional barriers to learning that their students experience beyond the school and address those barriers in collaboration with community agencies.