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Improving School Climate - Breakout Session, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety

On February 16-18, 2021, the National Institute of Justice hosted the Virtual Conference on School Safety: Bridging Research to Practice to Safeguard Our Schools. This video includes the following presentations: 

School Discipline, Safety, and Climate: A Comprehensive Study in New York City, Elise Jensen

As the first-ever comprehensive study of school climate, discipline, and safety in New York City, this study employed a rigorous mixed-method design with two research strategies: (1) a comprehensive quantitative analysis analyzing the effects of variations in school population characteristics, climate, and discipline and population characteristics; personal student characteristics; and (2) in-depth case studies in five schools using alternatives to suspension to explore on-the-ground implementation lessons. The quantitative analysis allows us to examine the intersecting effects of school-, and individual-level factors on school disciplinary outcomes/use of suspension; formal justice involvement; and academic outcomes. The qualitative findings highlight school safety, climate and culture, especially experiences with existing security measures; experiences and feedback about alternative approaches, including whole school approaches, prevention programs, guidance interventions and restorative approaches; how other schools might succeed in implementing similar practices. This study helps fill a gap in the scholarly literature on "what works" and has important implications for educators and justice policymakers nationwide.

Randomized Impact Evaluation of Capturing Kids’ Hearts Program, Thomas Hanson

The Capturing Kids’ Hearts (CKH) program is a school-wide, skill intensive, program designed to strengthen students’ connectedness to school through enhancing protective factors (strong bonds with teachers, clear rules of conduct that are consistently enforced) and targeting modifiable risk factors (inappropriate behavior, poor social coping skills). CKH trains all school staff to model and teach relational and problem-solving skills, communicative competencies, and consequential thinking. This study uses a cluster- randomized experimental design to examine the extent to which CKH reduces violence perpetration, victimization, and problem behaviors; enhances relationship bonds between and among students and teachers; and increase students’ social competencies and academic performance. Key outcomes include measures of (a) violence perpetration and victimization, (b) relationship bonds between and among students and teachers, and (c) personal and social competencies. Staff and student self-report survey data were collected in the spring prior to implementation of CKH and in the spring of the first and second implementation years. Archival record data was also collected to assess student attendance and discipline outcomes. Estimates of program impacts based on the staff surveys suggested that CKS had small but consistent positive impacts on various aspects of school relationships, student voice/disciplinary climate, and student behaviors, but no discernable impacts were detected on the outcomes assessed by student surveys. Archival data results were mixed, indicating that schools that implemented CKH exhibited greater increases in excused and unexcused absences and suspensions, but more pronounced declines in disciplinary referrals.

Comprehensive Assessment of School Climate to Improve Safety in Maryland Middle Schools, Catherine Bradshaw and Elise Pas

This study examined the efficacy of an adapted version of the Classroom Check-Up (CCU) teacher coaching model to address the detection of, prevention of, and responding to bullying. This teacher-randomized trial included 78 teachers who were randomized to the intervention (coaching with mixed-reality simulation) or comparison condition. We collected teacher surveys and classroom observational data for pre- and post-test. Intervention teachers were significantly more likely to report responding to bullying with referrals; to intervene with the victims and perpetrators; and to report adults at their school did enough to address bullying. This shows promise for this novel, teacher-focused intervention.

Improving School Safety in the District of Columbia: Lessons Learned From an Evaluation of Safe School Certification, Renee Ryberg

We present lessons learned from an evaluation of a model using technical assistance (TA) to guide schools through a framework to improve their organizational capacity and improve school climate. Despite implementation challenges with staff turnover and competing priorities leading to significant attrition, we found that students in schools receiving technical assistance for implementing the model had more positive changes in perceptions of school climate. These differences were quite small, and offer limited evidence that providing schools with TA to improve organizational capacity is associated with more positive school climate. The efficacy of capacity-building interventions may be limited by the very conditions that inspire them.

Date Published: February 17, 2021