Getting School Climate Right—A Guide for Principals

Getting School Climate Right—A Guide for Principals

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Do students in your school feel comfortable talking to teachers? Do they believe they can ask for help? Do they think a teacher would notice if they are absent?

Answers to these questions reveal a lot about how students feel about their school and whether it is a place they believe they can learn and thrive.

Positive and stable relationships among staff, students, and families are the foundation of a school’s climate and for ensuring that every kid in a school community feels known and supported. But building and sustaining those relationships takes as much teamwork, deliberate care, and effective leadership as establishing a strong instructional program.

The hardships and upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic and the renewed fight against racism are bringing even more urgency to school climate work, regardless of whether school is taking place in-person, virtually, or both.

In this summit, learn from school climate experts, principals, and others about how to establish school climate best practices, how to prioritize—and model—relationship building with students, and how to take concrete actions to eliminate policies and practices that are harmful to students who are Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups.


December 15, 2020
1-2:30 p.m. ET

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*Agenda subject to change. Check back regularly for updates.

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  • 1:00–2:30 p.m. ET | Discussions Open

    How Principals Set the Stage for School Climate—Both In-Person and Remote
    Moderator: Stephen Sawchuk, Associate Editor, Education Week
    ‣ Being seen, feeling safe, engaging in challenging academic work, and connecting to peers: It all starts with the principal. Among other things, principals set the tone with their words and actions, and they help create a feedback loop to improve school culture through surveys and focus groups with students and parents. What happens, though, when everyday norms for interacting are shattered, as they are with COVID-19? Join principals and experts to learn how make the tenets of school climate work across learning models.
    Mashea Ashton, Founder and CEO, Digital Pioneers Academy, Washington, D.C.

    How to Support High Expectations for Students’ Academics and Behavior
    Moderator: Arianna Prothero, Staff Writer, Education Week
    ‣ High expectations for students’ academics and behavior are crucial to creating a positive school climate. But it’s not enough to simply tell students to follow their career dreams or post a list of school rules. This discussion will explore strategies for how principals can support those high expectations, whether it be carving out space to give students extra academic help, creating a system of opting-out of extra supports rather than opting-in, and leveraging school climate data to keep a finger on the pulse of how students feel about the relationships and rules in their school.

    How Can Principals Tackle Bias and Racism in Schools?
    Moderator: Denisa R. Superville, Assistant Editor, Education Week
    ‣ The coronavirus pandemic and the national social justice protests over the deaths of Black Americans are forcing school leaders to examine how inequities and bias are perpetuated in schools. How can school leaders disrupt those policies and practices and create more inclusive learning environments for students? Experts will discuss how they are undertaking this work in their own schools and share lessons learned so far.

    Using Student Voice and Student Agency to Create a Positive School Climate
    Moderator: Lesli A. Maxwell, Managing Editor, Education Week
    ‣ To build trust with students, schools must meaningfully include young people in the shaping of their campus culture and climate. What does that look like? It means going beyond the student council and relying on the high-achieving kids who always step forward with their ideas and opinions to encourage and support different kinds of students to become agents for change. What are ways educators can bring students into decision making processes around the norms and practices of their schools?

    Inspire, Connect, and Engage
    ‣ Creating a school environment where students feel empowered and student voices can be equally heard and uplifted, builds a community with equal investment between educators and students. Teachers are asking for flexible tools that provide students with a creative voice, to ensure equity in every student’s ability to learn and safeguard the security of each individual both in the classroom and online. With customized account profiles, secure sharing, and teacher approved applications, educators can create lessons where students can be creative and heard. Join the Promethean chat to learn more about how we can support educators through custom simulations and lesson models to empower students’ own learning and creativity in the classroom and remotely.

Guests, Speakers, and Moderators

Mashea Ashton
Founder and CEO, Digital Pioneers Academy, Washington, D.C.

Ashton is the founder and CEO of Digital Pioneers Academy, a public charter school located in Washington, D.C.—where her family has lived for six generations and she began her career as a special education teacher. DPA is the first computer science-focused middle school in the city. Prior to DPA, Ashton served as the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund, where she oversaw a $48 million initiative to support the growth of quality charter schools. Ashton holds an M.Ed. in Special Education and a B.A. in Sociology and Elementary Education from the College of William and Mary.

Lesli A. Maxwell
Managing Editor, Education Week

Maxwell is the managing editor for Education Week. She is the author of The Savvy Principal, a weekly newsletter for school leaders. For five years, she oversaw Education Week’s annual Leaders To Learn From special report that showcases outstanding district-level leadership. Maxwell began working at Education Week in 2006 as a reporter. She previously was a state government and higher education reporter for The Sacramento Bee and The Fresno Bee in California. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Arianna Prothero
Staff Writer, Education Week

Prothero covers student well-being and student engagement and motivation for Education Week. She delves into all facets that impact a child’s potential for success in school and beyond, including social-emotional learning, physical health, mental health, nutrition, housing and environmental factors such as family and economic stability and exposure to trauma and violence. Prothero formally worked as a radio reporter, anchor, and producer at WLRN, the NPR affiliate in Miami.

Stephen Sawchuk
Associate Editor, Education Week

Sawchuk covers superintendents, district management, school safety, and civics education for Education Week. He joined the newspaper in 2008 and formerly covered the teaching profession, curriculum and instruction. He holds degrees from Georgetown and Columbia universities and was a 2017 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Denisa R. Superville
Staff Writer
Education Week

Superville reports on principals and school leadership at Education Week. She joined Education Week in 2014, initially as a reporter covering district news, management, and leadership. Before joining Education Week, Superville worked as a municipal reporter at The Record in Bergen County, New Jersey.

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