May 16, 2017
By Kate Stringer
Of the dozen state ESSA plans that have been submitted so far to the U.S. Department of Education, most have nothing but praise for school climate surveys as measurements of school quality. But when it comes to actually using surveys as accountability measures, most states back away.
Only three states — Illinois, Nevada, and New Mexico — have school climate surveys as part of their “fifth indicator,” a new accountability tool in the Every Student Succeeds Act that lets states grade schools on measures other than reading and math scores. The others are turning to measures like chronic absenteeism, suspension rates, or college and career readiness instead.
“It’s not an easy thing to put into the accountability system if you’re not already doing it statewide,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and co-author of a recent report on the place of social and emotional learning in accountability systems. “It makes sense to me that very few states would be incorporating school climate into their accountability systems.”
Illinois is one of those exceptions. For 20 years, Chicago Public Schools has surveyed teachers and students on things like safety, the learning environment, and professional support.