ALBANY — The Schenectady City School District was one of six statewide to provide students and staff with a school climate survey last year, part of an effort to collect such data for all public school districts in New York.
State officials said Monday they plan to have 50 districts collect school climate data using a common survey this year and, over time, will expand that survey to all schools.
“It’s the culture of the school,” state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said of the surveys, which are given to students and teachers. “Am I happy when I come to work every day? And am I a student who is happy when I go to school every day?”
The survey — created by the U.S. Department of Education — asks students about how safe they feel in school, whether they are treated equally, how accessible teachers are and many other questions to gauge how students feel about their schools.
Schenectady schools Superintendent Larry Spring spoke Monday before the Board of Regents, as the board was garnering updated information about the climate survey. Spring focused on Schenectady’s efforts to establish school climates that are more sensitive to the trauma many students, particularly those in poverty, carry with them every day. A team of school and district leaders attended a national conference on “trauma-sensitive schools” in the spring, and the district hosted an in-house event for teachers and staff over the summer.
In its push toward a more trauma-informed climate, schools are working to establish calming spaces for students, emphasizing self-care plans for teachers and attempting to shift away from punish-first approaches to negative student behavior, Spring said.
Schenectady has yet to receive results from the survey administered last school year, Spring said after Monday’s meeting. He said the third-party vendor the district hired to compile the results has not provided that data to the district.
However, he told the regents that Schenectady faculty are beginning to approach students’ behavioral problems as manifestations of underlying mental health and behavioral problems that need to be diagnosed and treated.
“We need to make sure we are digging into and figuring out what is going on,” Spring said at the meeting. “We have to be thinking diagnostically. This behavior tells us something.”