Educators know that school climate matters. If we expect students to learn and teachers to teach, we must provide them with safe and supportive school environments. Tripod is therefore excited to offer leaders a new tool for assessing school-wide teaching and learning conditions. In just seven items, the survey captures students’ feelings of safety and security in school as well as their perceptions of teacher-student and student-student relationships.

The instrument aligns with current research on school climate, a concept the National School Climate Council defines broadly as “the quality and character of school life.” Safety and interpersonal relationships are the key components of school climate, but school resources and instructional quality matter as well. Accordingly, the new Tripod scale can be used either independently or alongside Tripod’s existing school-level 7Cs measure, which assesses schools’ overall quality of instruction.

Tripod’s research team has found the new instrument to be statistically reliable and capable of distinguishing clearly among schools with varying climates. It also works equally well regardless of students’ backgrounds and risk levels. This means it can be used to compare the experiences of various subgroups within a school as well as the experiences of students at various schools in the same district or network. In other words, the tool allows educators to draw unbiased conclusions about local conditions no matter their context.

Research also shows that the new scale is valid—that it measures things that matter. Schools with better Tripod climate scores in one year experience lower suspension rates, better student conduct, lower teacher turnover rates, better working conditions for teachers, and more community support and involvement in the following year. All of these findings hold even when effects such as a school’s demographic makeup and its students’ prior achievement are controlled.

Educators working to improve teaching and learning need high-quality tools for assessing and monitoring conditions in schools. Tripod’s new climate scale is one such tool. In our next post, we’ll hear how administrators in one of our partner school districts are using this tool to effectively and efficiently target efforts to improve teaching and learning conditions district-wide.