Special Report

Getting School Climate Right: A Guide for Principals

October 14, 2020
Dawn Brooks-Decosta is the principal of Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School in the Bronx.
Dear Principals,

Ask yourselves: Do your students feel good about school?

Many of you would answer that most of your students do. That’s certainly a big takeaway from a nationally representative survey of principals and teachers from the EdWeek Research Center.

But when principals and teachers were asked specifically about how certain groups of kids—Black students, immigrant students, and LGBTQ students—feel about school, 25 percent or more of respondents said they believe those children feel “very uncomfortable” or “somewhat uncomfortable.”

That’s a lot of kids whose principals and teachers say their schools aren’t making them feel welcome.

The essence of your job is making sure students feel a sense of safety and belonging and that they believe there are adults who care about them. 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.

You are juggling a million tasks, many of them complex and arduous, especially now. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you get clarity on the importance of building a healthy climate for all students and concrete ideas for how to pursue that, including tackling racism in your schools.
Coverage of social and emotional learning is supported in part by a grant from the NoVo Foundation, at www.novofoundation.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.