3 Ways to Assess School Climate & Character

by Character.org

At Premier Charter School, assessment is a big part of school life, because as Head of School, Julie Frugo, so wisely put it, “how do we know what we are doing is even working if we don’t assess it?”

Recommended Strategies

Give students surveys about character & climate regularly

Julie said: “One of our main formal assessment strategies is a survey that is given to students each trimester, asking questions that directly correlate to the character initiatives and climate in the classroom. We also survey the teachers each trimester to get their input on what’s working and what they need help with. This is all done through survey monkey so it’s free ( or cheap because we have a paid account). There are great analytics with survey monkey so we are always looking at the data for trends and to set goals.

It is also beneficial to find ways to share that data with the students. In our middle school we have used the bulletin boards hanging outside classrooms to share the data. Students stopped to look at the data and ended up having conversations with teachers and peers about ideas for improvement. We have found that when you are intentional about being transparent and inclusive with the students, they will think critically about problem solving. They care about having their voices heard and they come up with ideas that we as adults wouldn’t necessarily think of without their perspective.”

Incorporate character & climate into teacher/staff evaluations

Julie said: “We use I-observation which is based off of the domains of Marzano’s work and we have customized it to include our specific character education language. Teachers get pre and post meetings with their principals and teacher leaders for their formal observations so they are always talking about how to improve their relationships with students, student voice and choice, and, in general, how to be better character educators.We have been intentional about including the students’ perspective on how teachers are performing in each of the domains we evaluate.

After observations are finished, principals will have conversations with students asking them what they liked about the lesson or their ideas for ways to improve the lesson. The student’s feedback is shared with the teachers in their post-observation meeting. This has helped enrich the feedback, and teachers are organically having more conversations with their students about what’s working and not working in the learning process as opposed to just waiting for feedback in the post observation meetings.”

Create an effective induction process for new teachers

Julie said: “We also have a pretty intense and intentional three-year induction process so we do a lot of work on assessing individuals the first 3 years of teaching at the school. I teach a support seminar once a month that is required for all first-year teachers. We are collecting reflections and data throughout the year and then reteaching strategies for the areas they are not understanding each month. It’s basically a character class as we are focusing on how to implement class meetings, how to build relationships and trust, how to empower etc. With year 2 and 3 there is a similar focus but it is mostly done through book studies and blogging.

In the 3-year induction process we also ensure there are many layers of support for each new teacher/staff member. Each is assigned a coach who is a teacher leader who works with them on a regular basis. They model in classrooms, observe in classrooms and then have collaboration meetings. This is all done in a non-evaluative way and happens regularly throughout the year.” 

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