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CSU and CMSD Assess Impact of School Climate on Student Achievement

Institutions receive $400,000 grant from U.S. Department of Education for multi-year study


Research has shown that school climate, including safety, relationships, and culture of learning, plays a major role in student achievement. However, there has been little analysis of how changes in school climate, either positive or negative, specifically effect student outcomes or how students’ experiences of school climate vary based on race, ethnicity and sex.

To address these challenges, Cleveland State University is partnering with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to create the Cleveland Alliance for School Climate Research. The Alliance will assess the relationship between school climate and student education outcomes in Cleveland schools and how different subgroups, including students of color and students with disabilities, are impacted differently by school climate. The Alliance is being funded by a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

“Educational success is deeply impacted by the emotional and social climate children are exposed to at school,” says Adam Voight, director of the Center for Urban Education at CSU and leader of the research team. “Through this effort we hope to increase understanding of how climate affects academics and behavior for different types of students, and we eventually hope to use that knowledge to inform the way that schools in the city and nationally are organized.”

CMSD has gained national recognition for its work in the area of social and emotional learning. In May, the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development visited the District to tour schools and gather information for a nationwide report on the subject.

"We know that for students to learn, they must be in settings where they feel safe, respected and supported by both peers and adults," says Eric Gordon, CEO of the CMSD. "We look forward to participating in and seeing the results of research that shows, in detail, the effects of school climate on specific groups of children."

CMSD has administered a school climate survey to all students in grades 2 through 12 for the last ten years. Under the new project, researchers will use this unique data set to explore the relationship between secondary school climate and student outcomes, including academics, behavior and attendance, for the overall population and for certain subgroups within schools. The grant will also support partnership-building activities between the participating organizations with the goal of increasing CMSD's capacity to utilize research to improve schools and student outcomes.

The effort builds on a longstanding partnership between CSU and CMSD which includes multiple collaborative research studies, student teaching programs, and the housing of two CMSD schools on the University’s campus.

“We have worked hard to forge a strong relationship with CMSD, and that partnership affords access to data to advance research and a ‘living lab’ to pilot a variety of educational innovations that stand to benefit local students,” Voight adds.