NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A school’s success is often measured by academic performance, test scores, and attendance rates. But what about factors such as safety, drug and alcohol use, and even how students feel in the classroom?
Beginning this year, students in Tennessee can have their say about school climate by taking an online survey.
“The school climate project is designed to really try and get a sense of the quality of the relationships that students have with one another as well as with their teachers and administrators,” said Mike Herrmann, Executive Director of the Office of Safe and Supportive Schools.
The survey includes questions about classroom engagement, safety, and school environment. Students are asked if they agree with statements like “Most of my teachers notice if I have trouble learning something,” “I feel like I am part of this school”, and even are asked to list how many illegal substances they have consumed in the past month.
Robbin Wall, Principal of McGavock High School in Metro Nashville Public Schools, was first in line to try the survey at his school.
“We think we know what’s going on but we need actual data that will actually let us know what we believe to be true is true. Is our school really safe? Is our school really drug free?” said Wall.
“Students a lot of times will be more honest on a computer than they will be talking to me face to face. ‘Oh yeah Mr. Wall, that’s great’ and then they’ll go on a computer and then I get a lot better picture of what’s really going on,” he adds
And what’s really going on may be troubling. According to the National Education Association, an estimated 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
The Tennessee Department of Education hopes the survey will shed light on the appropriate resources to provide to schools.
“What we anticipate happening is that we begin to build a database, if you will, of effective strategies so that we can attach interventions and programs to specific problems that are identified,” said Hermann.
The information from the surveys will be available immediately to schools so they can address specific concerns and request additional resources as needed.