Improving Measures of School Climate through a Strong Research-Practice Partnership
Lisa Merrill, Camille Lafayette, Shifra Goldenberg (2018)
Research has begun to show that certain schoolwide characteristics—such as student-centered learning environments, leadership, and safety—can be important for improving student outcomes. In keeping with these insights, school improvement efforts around the country are becoming less narrowly focused on the performance of individual students and teachers and more focused on enhancing key aspects of the overall school learning environment. Many districts are attempting to measure these aspects of school climate using surveys of students, parents and teachers.
The New York City Department of Education was an early adopter of this general approach, launching its School Survey in 2006. Each year since then, the NYC DOE has distributed the Survey to all students in grades 6-12, as well as all teachers and parents throughout the district. The NYC School Survey is the largest education census in the United States, distributed annually to about a million people across 1,800 schools.
In 2014, new City and district leadership sought to undertake a comprehensive redesign of the Survey, focused on measuring the aspects of school climate and capacity that research had shown to be important for improving student achievement. Building on a pre-existing collaboration, the Research Alliance worked closely with the NYC DOE to help develop its Framework for Great Schools and to redesign the School Survey, with the goal of capturing information about the Framework’s key elements.
Research Alliance analyses suggest that this effort has resulted in a much stronger, more reliable Survey. The highly collaborative (and still ongoing) process has also demonstrated how a solid research-practice partnership can inform school district decisions and create useful measurement tools for the field.
The Research Alliance has documented some of this work in our Redesigning the Annual NYC School Survey collection, which includes:
- Redesigning the Annual NYC School Survey: Lessons from a Research-Practice Partnership, a brief highlighting lessons and potential challenges for other districts and partnerships that are working to develop school surveys.
- Introduction, which describes the national and local context for NYC’s effort and provides an overview of the collection.
- Part I: A Brief History, which describes how the NYC DOE and the Research Alliance worked together to develop the Framework for Great Schools and redesign the School Survey.
- Part II: The NYC School Survey in the Field, which describes the administration of the redesigned survey in the 2014-2015 school year, response rates for that year, and why response rates matter.
- Part III: How Strong Are the New Measures?, which examines the technical properties of the 2014-2015 survey measures and describes some changes that were made to further improve the measures in subsequent versions of the Survey.
- Part IV: Exploring Two Approaches to Analyzing Survey Results, which looks at different analytic strategies and discusses benefits, drawbacks, and implications of each.
- NYC School Survey, 2015-2016
- Technical Appendices
We hope this body of work will be useful for local stakeholders who are interested the NYC School Survey; for other school districts seeking out creative and collaborative ways to improve measures of school climate; and for those studying, developing and supporting research-practice partnerships.