ICCSD Board Educational Climate Ends Policies
[20000809 NJ]

Contents

Introductory Note

Educational Climate: Overview and Elements

Measures of Educational Climate

Focus Groups, Surveys and Polling

Technology

Post K-12

Other Academic Ends

Physical Education



Introductory Note: (1) At an ends brainstorming session July 30, 2000, the Board came to consensus around the notion of “educational climate” ends policies as its next focus. This catchall category was used to cluster a number of goals described below.

(2) Few, if any, are consistent with the kind of precise measurements that were available to the Board when it drafted the academic ends for reading, writing and mathematics. Those qualities, coupled with the fact the Board has not yet addressed the matter of measures for climate, means that this memo – designed to reflect Board consensus – can do little more than indicate the issues and offer very tentative suggestions.

(3) Three documents were before the Board July 30: “Academic Ends Policies (Other Measures),” “Brainstorming Ends Policies,” and “Elementary Grades 4-6 Performance Music Ends Policy: An Exploration.” These are now all available from www.nicholasjohnson.org (click on “Governance”). (“Brainstorming Ends Policies” includes two useful appendices: an excerpt from Carl D. Glickman, Renewing America’s Schools: A Guide for School-Based Action (1993), and the “ICCSD Mission Statement” and supporting documents.)

(4) The Board considered, did not reject, but set aside for the moment a number of other possible ends policy areas that are itemized at the end of this memo.

(5) This memo is available online in a version that includes hot links to the referenced documents. It’s at: http://www.nicholasjohnson.org (click on “Governance”).

Educational Climate: Overview and Elements

One of Webster’s definitions of “climate” is “the prevailing temper . . . characterizing a group.” Sociologists talk about “feeling the walls” of an institution. A positive educational climate is something we feel more than measure in a school or classroom. As Justice Stewart once said in another context, “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.”

Indicia of a positive educational climate include many of the items mentioned by the Board during its brainstorming session:

Measures of Educational Climate

Some aspects of educational climate can be measured, others cannot – at least not easily. Those that can are subject to ends that call for improvement in positive numbers and reductions in negative numbers.  For example:

Focus Groups, Surveys and Polling

The Board also discussed in this connection the use of focus groups, surveys and polling.

Such tools could – if professionally designed and independently administered – provide an incentive to improvements in climate without the use of measurable and fixed ends. Such tools already exist. (They are to be contrasted with the “evaluation” form sent to parents by one of our schools about which a number of us received e-mails of derision and outrage: the form offered participants no meaningful option but to rank administrators very highly.)

An honest and confidential survey of student, parent and teacher experiences and attitudes – reported publicly – could tell us a lot about equity, safety, democratic governance, parental involvement, and civility, among other things. Such reports would, presumably, produce improvements in the behavior of all and therefore in the educational climate in our schools. In other words, these public reports would be the end, the spur to improvement, in lieu of (or in addition to) specific, mathematical measures.

Technology

“Technology” was ranked second by the Board among the “other” ends policies possibilities.

We did not discuss precisely what we meant by “technology.” In some educational contexts “technology” is synonymous with “computers.” Of course, it could also include the use of the ICN as well as the Internet, and videotapes and students’ use of video cameras as well as computer technology.

On the assumption we, too, are using it as a synonym for computers, there are a number of possible educational uses:

So an initial task for the Board is deciding which of these we mean to focus on – although “all of the above” is always a possible answer.

Once that’s settled upon, some measures could be devised.

(My column dealing with this subject, “How Should We Use Computers?,” in the August 1 Press-Citizen, is available on the Web: http://www.nicholasjohnson.org (click on “Writing” and then “Recent Publications”).)

Post K-12

The Board’s third priority among other ends policies were those dealing with students’ performance after graduating from high school. Some possibilities are set forth in the “Academic Ends Policies (Other Measures)” document under “College,” “Post-college achievement,” and “Preparation for democracy.”

Other Academic Ends

Finally, the Board mentioned some other academic subjects for which it might want to establish ends policies:

Physical Education

Given the problems of obesity and atherosclerosis among today’s relatively young, the Board expressed some interest in exploring the possibility of establishing some minimal physical fitness ends policies. The end would be to increase the levels of students’ physical fitness over time. Possible standards are available from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, such as those for the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Awards Program.