If you’re a parent of a certain age, the phrases “school climate” or “positive school community” might not have much meaning for you. If you’re like us, your school was a place you went to see your friends, play some sports, and maybe learn a thing or two. The idea that the school could be a true community never crossed your mind, mostly because you were just trying to get through the day and were preoccupied with studying for the next test, staying current on reading assignments, or writing the next essay.
That’s changed in recent years, thanks to active PTAs, more involved parents, dedicated teachers and support staff, and empirical research that reinforces the idea that students greatly benefit from supportive environments. Not coincidentally, private schools (like The Branch School) are often the best place to find the school climate that works best for your young learner.
What is “School Climate?”
Simply put, school climate is a relatively new term that refers to the quality and character of school life, or the goals, values, teaching, leadership practices, and organizational structure that comprises a school. This climate is a product of a school’s attention to safety, as well as its efforts at promoting a supportive academic, disciplinary, and physical environment. A school with a positive climate encourages and maintains respectful, trusting, and caring relationships throughout the school community.
Educators are increasingly concerned with improving school climate so they can better prepare their students for the increasingly complex world their students will be facing upon graduation. There’s even a National School Climate Council dedicated to helping all schools create a positive, sustainable learning environment for students. Creating a positive school climate is, in no uncertain terms, critical to a school’s success.
What are the Benefits?
Research has shown that a positive school climate reduces drop outs and helps young people develop socially and academically. According to these studies, a positive school climate is tied to high or improving attendance rates, test scores, and graduation rates. Schools that measured strong in most supports were a whopping 10 times more likely than schools with one or two strengths to show substantial gains in reading and mathematics.
As you can see, this type of environment imbues students with the knowledge, skills, and temperament they need to be successful, productive members of society. A positive school environment touches a student’s heart as well as their minds and helps them become a good person, and not just a smart one.
Physical and Emotional Safety
Students feel safe in a positive school climate, and these days that means emotionally and physically. My gut reaction upon learning about The Branch School’s recent security upgrades was “Wow…that seems excessive. Surely nothing is going to happen at this school.” Then I thought about all those parents who had similar thoughts about their child’s schools before tragedy struck, and I was relieved that Branch School leadership was being proactive.
Emotionally, students need to know they are valued and cared for so they feel respected. Students these days need to have a say in their education, they need some agency in how they learn and how they express themselves in a school environment. It’s here once again that The Branch School excels. Not only does it offer a wealth of extracurricular activities, but the educators there lead students through Sequoia, a yearlong project for 5th through 8th grades. Each year, students use the fictitious island of Sequoia to solve real-world issues, such as the discovery of oil and how it will affect their country. They also design and build homes in their country during a water shortage, and research the country’s past through the discovery artifacts in an archeological dig. The best part? This is an entirely student-driven project, one where they make practical and ethical decisions that impact the island and its imaginary inhabitants. The students make use of the wealth of expertise in the Houston community, consulting with engineers and scientists, often their own parents. This connection facilitates the real world application of their learnings.
What Does this All Mean?
If you want your student to be a socially conscious, ethical member of society, then you need to choose a school for them that fosters a positive climate. This type of environment ensures that educators create nurturing spaces for students to grow socially and academically. The strong linkages between school climate and academic achievement underline how important it is for students to attend schools that provide a safe and supportive environment where they can thrive and fully engage in their school work.
Private schools in Houston, and The Branch School in particular, are the ideal places to find this kind of positive school environment. At TBS, both students and faculty care about the school, from its policies and procedures down to the care and maintenance of its facilities. If you’re looking for a school climate that will produce young people who will go on to lead satisfying lives and care about the common good, then look no further than The Branch School.
A Branch School Parent