Transcript: California Center for School Climate (CCSC) Kick-off Webinar
Tom Herman: Thank you and welcome from the CDE [California Department of Education]. We’re so excited to talk about this today. I am Tom Herman. I’m the administrator of the School Health and Safety Office. We’re really excited to inform you today about the California Center for School Climate [CCSCC or the Center]. We’ve worked closely with WestEd on school-climate data collection and data use now for over 20 years. Many years ago, the CDE worked with WestEd to support school-climate improvement and data-use training for high schools through the Safe and Supportive Schools Demonstration Project. We saw huge improvements in school climate at many schools within just a few years of implementation, but we’ve come a long way since then. We could barely use the word “school climate” and be widely understood. The U.S. Department of Education preferred the phrase “conditions for learning,” and now it’s even in our local control accountability plans [LCAP] to have a state priority on school climate and many of you are doing already such great work on school-climate improvements through efforts such as MTSS [multitiered system of support], social-emotional learning [SEL], trauma-informed practices, and various other systems that are multitiered in nature. And so, the CDE is pleased that we can expand these efforts statewide to support more districts and schools. And the timing is excellent for this and extremely urgent right now as this pandemic has caused such upheaval in education and so many students and staff are carrying such stress and difficulty with these changes. And school climate is an important consideration in improving schools as they are now. So, thank you and, also, not sure, is Sara Pietrowski here? She’s from the California State Board of Education. There she is.
Sara Pietrowski: Thank you, Tom. My name is Sara Pietrowski. I’m a Policy Director at the California State Board of Education. I handle our accountability assignment for the board including LCFF [Local Control Funding Formula], and when I think about this project and school climate in general, I’m definitely reminded of the implementation of LCFF in 2013 and all of the changes that came with that. As Tom mentioned, we now have a state priority around school climate, and it is a recognition of knowing that students will not be ready to learn if they feel unsafe and unwelcome and unsupported in their schools. And so, it was a really important shift that our state accountability system has recognized the importance of giving attention to this area.
The last two years have made focusing on school climate even more important. We know that many of our students and our educators have been impacted by COVID-19, by moving in and out of distance learning, and working to continue to address those impacts as we hopefully head to something like normal is critical to ensuring their success academically.
I just want to thank WestEd for all of your work on this area, my colleagues at CDE, who are definitely more on the ground with this this topic than I am, and all of you who are educators out there in the field supporting our schools and our districts as they work to make sure our students are supported and have a positive school climate that gives them access to all the tools that they need to be successful. So, thank you and thank you for having me today.
Tom Herman: Thank you, and now I’ll turn it over to Hilva Chan.
Hilva Chan: Good morning, I’m Hilva Chan. I’m an Education Programs Consultant with the CDE. Welcome you can join us today. Let’s go over the agenda for today. We’ll first get a quick overview about the session’s objectives, give you a quick overview about the Center, the CCSC, and then talk about the why, why it is important about school climate, and then data use. And then we’ll share with you about some of the preliminary findings on the strengths and the needs in the field. And then we’ll spend some time going over the services and then to introduce you to our team. We will spend the last 10 minutes on answering any questions that you have. So again, if you have any questions as you hear about all these upcoming TAs [Technical Assistance] and services, please put them in a Q&A.
Let’s go over the objectives. We just talked about this already. We’re going to give you a quick overview about the Center, introduce our exciting TAs as they will be available in the next couple years, and then you really have a chance to really meet our team who will be supporting you in the next few years.
What is this California Center for School Climate? Now, the CDE has been working with WestEd for over 20 years in supporting school-climate data collection and the CalSCHLS [California School Climate, Health, and Learning Surveys]. We’re so excited that we can get additional resources this year, $6 million dollars in state general funds, to allow us to expand our partnership with WestEd to support you in providing school climate and data use TAs and coaching support to all schools and districts. This is a three-year initiative launched under this new California Center for School Climate.
There are four goals that really support us in planning our work. First, we want our TAs to be relevant. We want to really meet you where you are, especially now when schools are so overwhelmed with all the changes given under the pandemic. We don’t want to create something that we think you need, but work with you to really build something that will actually support your schools and students and staff.
Secondly, there’s a big focus on data. Now, we’ve been doing this with WestEd for over 20 years, so we were able to provide you with a lot of coaching and support in terms of school-climate data collection and data use. When you implement your school-climate improvements, you’re able to really be informed by data, showing the needs being reflected to you through the surveys from your stakeholders.
And third, we know that there are tons of experts out there. Many of you are doing excellent work in terms of implementing MTSS, SEL, and trauma-informed practices. We want to serve as the connector to really bring peers and all the experts in across the state, so you can learn from each other.
Finally, it’s so important to have school climate be a shared common goal among your education partners, your students, your staff, and your families. We’re trying to provide different chances to really support and coach you in developing partner-led activities in your school.
With all this, we hope to really support you in your LCAP, in supporting stakeholder engagement, and also in your work in addressing pupil engagement and school climate in state priorities five and six in LCAP. Please check us out. This QR code on the right will lead you directly to the CCSC website. You can simply use your phone camera app to scan it and you’ll go there directly, or we’ll be dropping the website link in the chat as well.
Let’s take a pause before we just jump right into what this upcoming trainings and TA support and think about why school climate. We’re really grateful to have Paula Adair, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services with the Tulare City School District, joining us today to really give us the why: why school climate, why data use, and what impact does it make to Tulare schools. I’ll turn it over to Paula.
Paula Adair: Well, thank you. Good morning. I’m Paula Adair, and I’m honored to be here to share with you why school climate and data use matters. Let me just tell you a little bit about myself. I’ve been privileged to have spent the last 30-plus years, not giving the exact number, working for Tulare City School District, and we’re right in the heart of the Central Valley. We’re a preschool through 8th grade district with a little over 9,000 students, and we’re composed of 10 elementary schools, four middle schools, one K–8, two community day schools, and a very, currently robust independent study program. I started my career in education as a kindergarten instructional aide, and then I have taught kindergarten, first grade, fourth grade in the general-education setting, seventh and eighth grade learning opportunities, and I spent a few years as a Title 1 resource teacher, a middle school vice principal, a principal at middle school, a principal at elementary school, Director of Curriculum, and now I’m currently Assistant Superintendent of Student Services. I share this with you to let you know I do understand the significance climate has in the educational arena.
So, school climate: it produces a lasting impression on the individuals that we interact with, the students that we are entrusted to help learn and grow; their families, who every day give us a little piece of their heart by sending their children to us; our staff who look to us for leadership and collegiality; and the community that’s really depending on us to nurture the future adults of tomorrow. School climate is defined by what you see and you hear and you feel. It’s really the energy or the personality of the place, the learning environment, but don’t forget that it’s also defined by what isn’t seen, heard, or felt. It’s that undercurrent, and it may be a riptide or a calm sea, but your school climate is this living and breathing entity that needs to be nurtured, evaluated, and worked on daily to create an environment of positivity. Our collective beliefs about our values and our norms and our expectations are what is manifested in our school climate. So, the ideals of that organization, they need to be intentionally taught to the members and then consistently retaught, reinforced, and celebrated. In today’s world, when people are in year two of a worldwide pandemic, stress and overwhelm and anxiety are at this crippling high, and in this environment of change, the only certain thing is change. Establishing, maintaining, or creating a school climate that fosters positivity, it’s paramount, paramount. It’s not easy but it is time well spent and we all just need to remember that just like negativity can spread, so can positivity.
In Tulare City School District, every site meets weekly in groups that we call our MTSS—multitiered system of support—site teams. The MTSS teams’ purpose is to utilize data to monitor and address student needs, and then, they provide support on a weekly basis to ensure our students are getting what they need in a timely fashion to be successful. The core of the MTSS group, it stays the same each week: It’s the principal, a leadership representative on campus, the RTI teacher. In our district, we have one RTI teacher at every campus that focuses on climate. Those are the constants and they’re there to unify the teams and then different team members rotate in each week based on the focus areas that the meeting is examining. Two focus areas are discussed each week; thus, all focus areas are reviewed monthly. And those areas are attendance, social-emotional learning, health, academics, and behavior. After they review all the relevant data, then the discussion focuses on providing intervention or reteaching and/or recognizing progress that students have made or that the campus is making. And these meetings, they are one more thing to do, but we say that they are focused on the most important thing we do, which is supporting students’ well-being, their well-being academically, socially, and emotionally. So that MTSS structure for those meetings allows a more broad focus on meeting the needs of the whole child. We review the data frequently and consistently and that fosters this proactive approach to meeting students through a supportive and collaborative manner. The data that we look at varies. We look at attendance reports, assessment results, academic progress-monitoring, observational data from teachers or staff members, referrals to support providers, parent logs, student health interviews, visits to the health office, our social-emotional survey responses, risk assessments, so on—whatever that data is that’s pertinent to the focus area.
I do want to share just one story. It comes from a middle school. A few years back, I was asked to conduct a Student Listening Circle [SLC] to gather some insight, and the principal and staff at that school were concerned about a perceived increase in apathy. The staff had noticed that students were not completing assignments like they used to or not participating in class, like the energy of that school felt off. The principal and site leadership asked for my team to assist in conducting a student learning circle in order to dig deeper into those perceptions. The site leadership selected a cross section of students and staff and parents to participate, and I thought the student learning circle went really well, and at the end, they collaboratively had come up with some short- and long-term plans to work on staff-and-student relationship-building. But during the debrief, this veteran science teacher, who I had worked with at many schools before, he was part of that experience, and he shared that he had no idea that the students wanted to know him, to really get to know him. “They wanted to spend time,” he said. “They wanted to spend time with me outside of class. They just wanted to hang out or maybe shoot some hoops, you know that type of stuff.” This veteran teacher was moved by the SLC, because he had never considered that he mattered to his students beyond the confines of his science classroom. The SLC findings supported that notion that students want and need to have a relationship with the adults at school. And it was an eye-opening, probably even a heart-opening, experience for him and, ultimately, for that staff and students, because he emotionally shared this takeaway with the staff. So that middle school that we talk about in question, since then, it’s had two principal changes and other staff changes, but their intentional focus on nurturing the school climate, and that staff now really prioritizes relationships first. They’re reflective, they ask the hard questions, the school is inviting, they strive for equitability, all of that, they remain proactive to this day, through the leadership changes, because the staff has internalized the importance of school climate on their entire school community. So, it’s been really nice. They’ve adopted that as their core beliefs.
To answer that question, “Why does climate matter?” Well, schools that focus on nurturing a positive school climate, they’ll benefit from lower behavior incidents; decreased suspensions; improved academic outcomes; increased motivation; in this case, decreased apathy; increased attendance; improved morale, for staff retention and community support; and just an overall feeling of increased self-worth. I want to say that currently, it’s a challenge to not feel frustrated and tired. The pandemic is exhausting. The front office at our schools, they look like health clinics. People are working out of their comfort zone and job descriptions, and students are unsure of who is going to be their teacher when they get there in the morning. The pandemic and the uncertainty around it can cause people to be on edge, but when you have a positive climate at school that focuses on being supportive and being proactive, others pick up the load and they assist each other in getting things done, so that we can continue to educate the whole child. School climate and data use matter really now, more than they have ever mattered before. Thank you for letting me share, and I believe that Jenny is going to speak now.
Jenny Betz: Thanks so much, Paula. It’s always really great to hear what you all are doing down in Tulare. Hi, everyone. My name is Jenny Betz, and I’m a Senior Program Associate at WestEd, where I’ve actually had quite the privilege over the last few years of working a lot with Paula and the team down there. They really are doing amazing things, so it’s so great, in different contexts, to be able to see that. I’m also really excited that I am one of the TA providers for this center. And, as we begin our work with the California Center for School Climate, we really want to make sure that we’re providing, as Hilva said, the best and most-relevant supports and resources to LEAs [Local Education Agencies] across the state in in a variety of contexts, and the only way to actually know what everyone needs is to ask. We’re continuing to gather information from the field that really illuminates what the current strengths are and the opportunities for growth. To gather that input from the field, we recently launched an Inquiry Survey to capture the needs and strengths of districts and schools from all over the state. You may have actually already completed the survey, and if you did, thank you very much. Input from the survey and from other sources of data, including talking to people like Paula, are really going to continue to shape the supports offered by the Center. We’re going to share a link to the Inquiry Survey in a few minutes, but first, let’s look at a few things that we already are learning.
One of the questions on the survey asks about the top school-climate areas of need and here are the top things identified so far: equity; resilience and trauma-informed practices; restorative practices; meaningful engagement of families and partners; social and emotional learning; school climate and culture. Not terribly surprising, but really, these are the things out of a whole list that really are popping up. Let’s take the opportunity right now with all of you joining us today to gather a little more data. We’re going to use a few Zoom polls and our first poll relates back to the preliminary findings from the previous slide. So, the question is, “What are your top-two school-climate priority areas?” and Stacy just launched the poll. We’re going to have a few moments here to answer and then we’ll see what folks say. What are your top-two school-climate priority areas for your site or your district? As you’re voting, Stacy, on the other end, is watching for the votes to come in and then we’ll go ahead and post the results. It looks like they’re coming in. Okay, so it looks like a lot of folks saying equity and culturally responsive practices, social-emotional learning, and staff wellness, and educator well-being. You know, a lot of these have quite a few, like pretty even, but yeah, those are all the things that are going on right now and really need the most supports, given the context we’re in right now.
Another question from the Inquiry Survey asks about school-climate data-use areas of need. So here are the things that ranked highest from the survey so far: using data to inform decision-making; engaging partners; centering student voice; monitoring programs for improvement, like are we doing the right things, is it working; and then, of course, aligning that data with our LCAP priorities and reporting. So that brings us to our next poll, “What are your top-two school-climate data-use areas of need for your school or district?” Stacy, again, will open the poll, and we’ll give you a few moments here to answer what your top-two school-climate data-use areas of need are. And this is all really helpful, even if you’ve done the survey, and if you haven’t yet, this is all going to go back into our planning and how we’re working with CDE and all of our partners. Okay, results are coming up. Let’s see. It looks like monitoring of improvement, yes. Leading school-climate data-use conversations. Yeah, that’s a huge thing, right? Like, how do we take the information and actually use it, and use it in a variety of ways, and talk to people, and make sure that our partners and students and families know how to look at the data and use it? Centering of student voice, yes. Those are all things that are super important that we’re seeing also pop up in the Inquiry Survey and that relate to what we’re hoping to be able to provide through the Center.
Lastly, and especially after the past nearly two years of experiencing distance learning, remote PD and webinars and meetings, we want to know from you all how we can build really the best virtual events that are useful, engaging, and meaningful. You’ve all now had experience with it, and we want to continue evolving because we know so much of this will continue to be virtual. Here’s our last poll of the day, “Which of these activities are really most helpful when you’re engaging in virtual learning events or that sort of thing?” Hearing from peers; looking at data; collaborative brainstorming and working together; sharing challenges and hearing people’s suggestions on what you might do. And, again, you have a few seconds, and as folks finish up, we’ll see what the, what everyone’s saying. And it looks like it’s coming up pretty even split. So, definitely some bright spots. Yes, hearing that has been a huge thing over the last two years, hearing what is working, and a lot of what is working are things that you’re already doing. And it’s good to hear, “Oh okay, we’re on the right track.” And sometimes, we can really learn from what other people have figured out already, so thank you all so much for engaging with us through those polls. The actual Inquiry Survey has several more questions than what we covered today. It should take you less than 10 minutes to complete, and we really, really encourage you and ask you to take the survey when you have a moment. You can use this QR code here, that’s on the slide, by taking a picture of it with your phone, or we’re going to go ahead and put the—thank you, Lora—the link in the chat. We really want to hear from as many people representing as many contacts as possible, so please share the link with colleagues as well, and with that, I’m going to pass it on to the amazing Rebeca Cerna.
Rebeca Cerna: Thank you, Jenny. My name is Rebeca Cerna, as Jenny mentioned, and I’m fortunate to be working with a wonderful team as part of this Center. I will be serving as a Director for the California Center for School Climate, and here is our team of fabulous Technical Assistance Providers, including Jenny Betz, who you just met. The team has expertise on several school-climate areas, ranging from restorative practices, mental health, school safety, resilience- and trauma-informed practices, school wellness, family engagement practices, and our team is eager to support you over the next couple of years. We also have the supports from our Project Coordinator, Lora, and our Senior Advisor Team. Most importantly, we will be recruiting five high school students for our Youth Advisory Team. The Youth Advisory Team will be supporting us in codesigning some sessions and will also be supporting us in creating, we will create opportunities for them to advise us on resources and activities that will be part of what we provide for you. More information about the recruitment of these advisors is going to be posted on the Center website by the end of the month. The students will also be receiving stipends for their participation in the Youth Advisory Team.
In terms of what we will be providing between now and June, and moving forward, is what we’re going to move to next in the agenda. As Hilva mentioned, our goals are to provide relevant technical assistance on a variety of school-climate topics and data-use practices to meet the needs of the districts and schools that we’re serving, and also to provide you with opportunities to help build partnerships and connections. We want to support you in strengthening your already-existing school-climate efforts. Some of the opportunities that are going to be offered by the Center will be open to all districts and schools, and some opportunities will be limited to only some schools and districts. Next, we’ll be highlighting what will be available between now and June and then we will also, Jenny and I, will also share what to expect in the fall.
First, I’m going to start off with what’s available for everyone starting now in January. We will be having virtual Peer-Learning Exchanges monthly, and these are opportunities to connect with other schools and districts across the state to share school climate practices, or lessons learned, or challenges, and work through challenges. During some Peer Learning Exchanges, topics will be identified by participants, and in other Peer Learning sessions, those topics will be determined in advance based on feedback that we receive from you. We have our first Peer Learning Exchange happening next week on January 27. The link will be posted in the chat, and we would invite any of you or any of your team members to register and join us for that. And our team member Lan Nguyen will be leading these Peer Learning Exchanges.
Next, we have a series of School Climate Data Use Webinars. This series will start in February, and our first webinar will be focused on data driven decision-making, focused on using data to meet the needs of the moment. We have a second webinar that is scheduled for March as well, and that’s going to be a collaboration with the Center for Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety and the Equity Accelerator Fellowship Project, and we will be posting registration links for both of these two webinars by the end of the month. And future topics for the remaining webinar series are going to be determined based on feedback that we get from you, from the polls that we received today, and from the surveys that will be completed, but some of these examples look like they might be leaning towards engaging partners in reviewing data, or aligning data with LCAP goals, or continuous improvement efforts are some of the things that are rising to the top. Registration links, again, will also be posted on the Center website.
In the latter part of May, we will be hosting a one-day school-climate virtual event, so we will be having keynote panels; breakout sessions covering various school climate topics; and we’re making every effort to select a variety of speakers and topics to meet your needs. As this event is developed, we will be posting information on the site as well and will be pushing out registration information across the state.
Our team is also now available to provide customized supports. This could be supports in the form of virtual coaching sessions, whether they’re one-on-one or in small groups, or helping you identify resources or research, and/or connecting you with other districts or partnering agencies. We have a Technical Assistance Request Form. The QR code is here on this slide, and you could use your camera app to look at to fill out the Technical Assistance Request Form. The link is also found on the Center website, and we will be posting the link on the chat. Thank you, Lora, for posting that in the chat.
This is the last of the supports and it includes an audio gallery, resources, and tools. We will be developing an audio gallery where we will highlight exemplars in school climate from across our state. If you have any nominations or recommendations of sites that we should highlight in the audio gallery, let us know. Shazia will be sharing the nomination link in the chat, and each year, we will be adding more audiocasts. We will also be developing briefs in the School-Climate Toolkit. In collaboration, we will be getting ideas and recommendations from our Youth Advisory Team on some of the activities that are included in the toolkit, and so those are some of the things that will also be developed between now and June.
And so now, I’m going to pass it to Jenny, who’s going to highlight some of our supports that are being offered to select schools and districts.
Jenny Betz: Thank you so much, Rebeca, and hi again, everyone. So today, I’m really excited to tell you about our Safe and Supportive Learning Environments Essentials Virtual Professional Learning Series [SSLE], which is a lot of words, I know. This is a really unique and intensive offering from CCSC. The SSLE Essentials lead educators and education leaders, so admins, district folks, that sort of thing, really lead folks to integrate a broad cluster of research-based content and culturally responsive practices that inherently work together to foster safe and supportive learning environments. Participants develop the mindsets, knowledge, and capacity needed to really infuse all of these practices into everyday instruction and experiences of their schools, districts, and agencies.
The Essentials bring together—and this is why it’s called this—the essential components of research strategies and frameworks that often overlap and really support each other from a variety of timely and impactful lenses. So, social-emotional learning, culturally responsive education, trauma-informed practices, restorative practices, those sorts of things. The Essentials—that are eight sessions for educators, and an additional two, for a total of 10 sessions for education leaders—explore individual, interpersonal, and systemic aspects of ensuring safe and supportive learning environments. There’s synchronous learning for each of those sessions and collaboration that takes place on Zoom, and then there’s some asynchronous work and reflection and practice between sessions using Canvas. We’ll put a link in the chat if you want to learn more about this series, and we are really excited to announce that the first California Center for School Climate cohort for SSLE has already been selected and starts February 1, which is amazing, and I think actually some of you might be on that list. And to be notified about future opportunities, I believe Lan just put in chat, there’s an Interest List that you can sign up for, and we’ll let you know what’s going on and when the next cohort comes up. So really excited about that.
And, in addition to all that Rebeca has shared, and Hilva shared, and that I just shared, there’s even more things that we’re excited about for next school year. Starting in the fall of 2022, that’s the year we’re in, we have several in-person supports that we’ll be able to make available, assuming that all the COVID stuff gets resolved and we can meet in person again. We’ll be selecting a number of districts and schools to really co-lead some school climate activities at their own sites, including, that Paula talked about, Student Listening Circles, youth summits, family forums, that sort of thing. There’s also going to be select opportunities for in-person school climate data use workshops, like really with that site or district’s own data, and then we’re going to be holding regional climate events in person in six different locations across the state, and these opportunities are going to allow for cross-connections with folks who are in your region. So lastly, keep an eye out for new resources that will be coming out, including an updated expanding version of the School-Climate Connection Toolkit. Lots of exciting stuff and we’ll continue to update you as things move forward. And with that, I’m going to pass it back to Hilva.
Hilva Chan: Thank you, Jenny. If you have any questions about all these exciting, upcoming trainings and opportunities, please put your questions in a Q&A or you can just unmute yourself and just ask. I noticed that we have one question asking about, asking Paula regarding the SEL curriculum for that she used in Tulare. I believe Paula had to go with other commitments, so we’ll direct the questions to her and then get back to Linda. So, there’s another question from Linda regarding when will the School-Climate Toolkit be released. Maybe, Rebeca, you can just unmute yourself and then just answer the question?
Rebeca Cerna: Yeah, sure. Linda, the School Climate Connection Toolkit is going to be released in the fall, so our hope is to launch it at the same time as the school year starts, so in August/September of 2022.
Hilva Chan: Yeah, we’ll be posting a lot of these resources on the website, so make sure that you check out our website, so you can notice that all these new resources that you’ll be, and then trainings from today, they’ll be available to you.
Rebeca Cerna: And then, just to add to that, as we develop, for example, audiocasts as part of the Audio Gallery, those will be posted in the next couple of months as those are completed. Updated ones will be included on the website as well.
Hilva Chan: So, as we wait for questions maybe we can move on to the next steps, Rebecca. Just to remind folks that if you haven’t gotten a chance yet, please make sure to check out our CCSC website where you, it’s a living document, where we continue posting resources and trainings, opportunities, and registration links. If you haven’t yet, please complete the Inquiry Survey. We really want to hear from you. You can find the Inquiry Survey on the website. It’s also in the chat box right now. It would really help us shape and design the trainings that would work for you. Now, as Jenny mentioned, our first SSLE cohort is already full, so if you want to be keep, you know, keep updated on all these upcoming trainings, please sign up for the School Climate Connection Newsletter which you will always find on the website as well. And the link is actually in the chat box as well. Because some of the trainings that we have, we have space limitations, so you do want to be informed about them when they are released.
At this time, it looks like that we don’t have any additional questions, but please, if you have any new questions come up, or when you see any of the new trainings that come up, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our team via this email or just go to our website. Again, thank you for joining us today. We really appreciate your time. We’ll connect soon. Thank you.