As anyone who works in and with schools knows, negative school climate harms and positive school climate facilitates the well-being of all involved. The National School Climate Center is focused on ways to abate the negative and engender the positive. It is working with others across the country to make this happen, and it has already played an essential role in developing standards and other resources to stimulate school improvement. And, we echo what others have said about the Center’s leadership being innovative and open to input. NSCC is a welcome and potent addition to the efforts to address barriers to learning and teaching and re-engage disconnected students.
The mission of NSCC is to help students in every classroom across America to dealing with social and emotional issues, but in some sense, the advocacy crossed over the countries and nationalities. BI-TO is a Chinese EQ school for children. In 2009, my colleagues and I looked everywhere for latest information and knowledge to improve the teaching strategy and curricula, NSCC gave it’s hands, Dr. Cohen sent so many comprehensive knowledge to us, helped to improve the school climate and teaching strategy. As Chinese, we appreciate the selfless assistance of NSCC. Dr. Cohen and his staff not only educate the minds and hearts for the children in US, but in the world. We applaud NSCC for his commitment and integrity, and He is a true Great Non-profits!
During two summer institutes organized by Dr. Cohen, our task force learned about programs and procedures for integrating and infusing social and emotional learning throughout the school. Their work and expertise in identifying the critical factors in effective programs was most helpful to us in our work. Rather than promoting a particular approach or curriculum, NSCC (then CSEE)focused on the conditions necessary for social and emotional learning to flourish as well as the process needed to enable social and emotional education to become an integral part of the school culture. Thus, we could create plans tailored to the needs of our particular situation.
NSCC is a leader in applying rigorous science to promoting schools that are healthy for students and for society. Their work on school climate is cutting edge and their focus on advocacy and policy promises to make it more than a think tank, and to impact schools nationally. With few resources they have already made a big splash in educational reform from the national to the state to the local level.
The National School Climate Center is a unique organization. The NSCC’s staff works collaboratively with all who are interested in improving school climate. They provide highly effective tools (such as the School Climate Inventory and the School Climate Challenge White Paper) that are based on the latest research in the field. The NSCC, in collaboration with the National School Climate Council, offers a clear vision of school climate goals over a five year period and proposes concrete steps needed to achieve these goals. Jonathan Cohen, the director, is always open to new ideas and perspectives that may differ from, or even challenge, his own. This is how social justice movements are successful: clear vision and goals, thoughtful planning, collaborative work, and authentic, open-minded leadership.
The work to improve school climate is gaining national steam; the proverbial “fly wheel” is finally moving, after generations of advancements in schooling and education in general fueled by sound research. Schools have always focused on building student character and conscience, albeit tempered by changing political interests. There has always been a belief that the more affective and “soft” side of schooling matters, but only recently has there been the research-base to support these beliefs with data. Civic education/civics, character/moral education, anti-bullying programs and so on are finally coming together in what is known as School Climate. There is important justification for having this term represent the final umbrella, because school climate includes both skill development/role modeling AND systems and structures that must align to improve the quality and character of school life. And, it is incontrovertible that having a positive school climate is the foundation of and prerequisite for high quality learning. Establishing and supporting an organization whose role it is to support schools, districts, states and the nation is essential. The National School Climate Center (NSCC) has already shown great leadership in this area and ought to be applauded for raising its visibility and outreach. The NSCC already provides essential and cutting edge information to schools, districts and states with research sharing and best practices. Understanding both what school climate encompasses and what practices ought to be implemented is not yet widely known in a comparable way as say how to teach early literacy or numeracy. If school climate is truly to be improved at any/all levels, then front line educators, policy developers and school administrators must have the ability to locate such cutting-edge information and choose/implement principles, practices and strategies that are recognized as being expert, effective and sustainable over time. The NSCC has as its mission to do just that and I wish to add my strong voice that this organization has the potential to change the lives of children in schools in profound and foundational ways. The vision of NCLB was to accomplish literally that. However, the translation in practice focuses exclusively on narrow aspects of academic achievement. Without comparable attention on the quality of the school climate, academic aceivement and overall student success is compromised. I am a person who has worked in this “field” for my entire professional life of about 35 years and am now at the State Department in Connecticut for the past five (school climate improvement being my exclusive charge). I know first hand how helpful the National School Climate Center has been and will continue be in furthering both the goals of improving school climate and, more importantly, the actual practice of doing so. Over the years, working to improve school climate has been a relatively lonely job, and I know of others similarly educated in the field and as passionate about the work as am I who have experienced the same thing. I cannot do this work alone, and neither can anyone else. We need each other to share and disseminate information and to provide the kind of guidance educators both need and want. No longer can improving school climate be a contextual “check off box.” Improving school climate can no longer be seen as an “add-on.” In order to insure this paradigm shift and help the flywheel move faster, a well-respected National School Climate Center is essential. Such a Center can provide the information and guidance that educators/policy makers require to move theory to practice. Having National School Climate Standards is a huge positive development. These standards will remain hallow until they are fully translated into sound and obtainable practice and once that is done, everything must be shared and communicated widely. The NSCC has the expertise to do this work and as their visibility and resources increase, the work to improve school climate at all levels and in every school district in the country (as well as the subsequent international reach) will continue to be profound.
As my team members and I meet with various stakeholder groups we continue to take Dr. Cohen's message to them to begin to establish a state-wide voice around social emotional education. Dr. Cohen has provided a sound base for our state work through his summer institute and he and his colleagues have been instrumental in helping us move our work forward. We have not found any other site that provides the comprehensive information we need, all in one place, that supports the philosophy and work we are committed to do. I applaud Dr. Cohen and his staff for their commitment, integrity and will to change the lives of our nation's youth and provide them with the safe, healthy caring learning environments they all deserve!
I have been in the field of education for over 35 years in the capacity of teacher, computer coordinator, dean of students, middle school assistant principal, elementary principal, middle school principal, and now as an educational consultant that works with school districts and professional associations. The National School Climate Center is the professional association that has had the greatest impact on my professional career. Many times throughout my career, I had opportunities to reflect on the needs of the students in hope of creating opportunities that would meet their diverse needs. Through reflection and dialogue, I formed a very strong opinion that our system of educating students from K-12 was incomplete. I was confident that educators designed curriculum, classroom activities, and hands-on experiences that challenged, excited, and enriched a student’s mind. However, I felt that what was lacking was the ability to provide students with the necessary tools, strategies, and resources that would allow them to understand their emotions and the emotions of others. I had a vision that if each student would participate in counseling experiences as part of their K-12 education we would have a better and safer society that was grounded in ethics, values and positive attitudes. Unfortunately, I did not have the power or the authority to make such a vision a mandatory component in each child’s education. During the summer of 2001, I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Center’s Summer Institute. The expertise shared by Jonathan Cohen and the presenters at the institute provided me with an incredible professional growth experience that allowed my vision to become a reality. I was grateful that I decided to take this institute for graduate credit because the assignments enabled me to further develop my skills as a reflective practitioner. I reexamined, rethought, and realigned my professional vision and created an action plan that would allow me as the middle school principal to naturally integrate social and emotional literacy into the fabric of our school community. As the principal of a renowned Middle School on Long Island, I believed that an important port of entry was to redesign our Middle School New Teacher Orientation Program. I invited teachers to be part of a steering committee that would redesign the program so that it clearly illustrated the sense of professionalism that existed in the school community. The steering committee worked collaboratively and was able to build bridges among the staff’s past accomplishments, programs that were presently working well, and SEL goals and expectations for new teachers. At the same time, teachers were exposed to what SEL is and why it is necessary. They were invited to pilot and explore SEL in their classrooms and throughout our school. We soon realized that SEL integration was an ongoing process that became our passion. Each year I continued to pursue professional growth opportunities offered through the Center and whenever possible I took staff members to conferences and summer institutes. By participating and presenting at the workshops we continued to strengthen our capacity to be reflective practitioners who were part of a professional learning community that was committed to learning, growing and achieving together. We were passionate about creating an SEL Middle School that would educate hearts and minds. After my retirement from Jericho in July 2006, I continued to pursue my passion for SEL as an educational consultant and faculty member for the Center. In the meantime, the students, staff, and parents at Jericho Middle School are immersed in SEL and the impact on the school’s culture is evident to all who visit the school. I am confident that the National School Climate Center will continue to touch the minds and hearts of many educators in the years to come. These efforts will allow educators to internalize SEL strategies and allow us to understand that . . . “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” – Gandhi Cecile Wren, President Matters of the Mind and Heart
The Center has provided both conceptual and practical leadership in bringing greater understanding to the importance of climate in school reform and student development. The center operates in a genuinely collaborative spirit that invites and capitalizes on best thinking and practice from a variety of educators and experts. Making a positive difference in kid's lives is always at the heart of the Center's agenda.
The National School Climate Center does a fantastic job in educating others on the problem of bullying in schools. Whether it be parents, teachers, children or anyone else in the school, I highly recommend this group. Elizabeth Bennett
The National School Climate Center is an amazing resource for schools, teachers, parents, and students to help create and sustain a healthy school climate. They also work to stop bullying by offering many resources on their Bullybust site.