Board To Hear Climate Update, YouthTruth Results


School-Climate-SurveyBy Nicholas von Wettberg

Results of the YouthTruth Student Survey, a climate assessment given to Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) students, will be presented at the regular school board meeting, on Thursday night.

The annual student perception survey, which complies with the district’s strategic plan and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), was implemented to enhance the bi-annual California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS).

Not all content from the YouthTruth Survey is included in the climate update – specific data will be part of a reported future action.

A presentation, along with results of the survey, was originally scheduled for early April, but, for numerous reasons, the action was deferred.

This week’s presentation, though, should bring the board up to speed, according to the agenda summary, on the “progress on survey calibration of the survey and its results, distribution of responses across school sites and the district.”

Early on in the report a working definition of the term, “positive school climate,” is provided, courtesy of the National School Climate Council, which says that it “fosters youth development and learning necessary for a productive, contributive, and satisfying life in a democratic society.”

Also included, courtesy of NSCC, is a short guide of what to look for in identifying a positive school climate.

In such a system, “people are engaged and respected,” where “students, families and educators work together to develop, live, and contribute to a shared school vision.”

Another indicator of a positive school climate is the quality of teachers, their level of involvement, and turning the classroom into a culture of learning, where “educators model and nurture an attitude that emphasizes the benefits of, and satisfaction from, learning.”

The council wraps up the climate guide, saying that “each person contributes to the operations of the school as well as the care of the physical environment.”

In the update report, at the bottom of the third page, it reads in bold, “We know we have a climate gap in Davis.”

Accompanied is a line graph, gauging connectedness by ethnicity, with three groups (Asian, Hispanic/Latino, White) from three different grades (7,9,11).

At first glance (percentage is in increments of 20), two things stand out with the corner graph.

All three groups decline in connectedness between Grades 7 and 9, and there is a large gap in percentage of connectedness (close to 20%) between the top two groups (Whites and Asians) and the demographic of Hispanic/Latino.

One of the main differences in the two climate assessment surveys given to district students, is that, in the CHKS (compared statewide), there is a “greater focus on social-emotional aspects, safety and risk behaviors,” while YouthTruth (compared nationally) has a “greater focus on instructional experience.”

When comparing the two, using a checklist (as done in the report), you see similarities in content, with engagement, substance use/abuse, emotional/mental health, peer/teacher relationships, academic expectations, relevance of school experience and classroom culture.

Included in the report is the process the district goes through, once the data is released.

The specifics are distributed through a “data share out,” which goes to the school board, cabinet, principals, ALT (Administrative Leadership Team) and the District Climate Committee.

Next, the focus shifts to analysis – identifying some of the “key indicators,” determining “differences between sites, sub-groups,” and comparing/contrasting the results with the CHKS.

Once that part of the process has been completed, the final stage of data usage is response, which in the report includes “recommendations district-wide and for sub-groups,” “target areas for response,” and “support for site responses.”

As for site use of data, that too is done via a data share out – to staff, students, parents and community.

A sample site share out is included in the report.

While the analysis part of the equation remains the same, there is a difference in the role of site response, which, according to the report, concentrates on developing further questions, implementing site changes, and calibrating with the district.

One of the suggestions from the sample site responses is, “Explore the use of Advisories to focus on student-to-student and student-to-teacher connection, goals and fun.”

In the sample site analysis, five statements are listed:

The first: “Students seem to be pretty connected to staff but less so to peers.”

The second: “Student to teacher connectedness needs to be improved across all three grade levels with an emphasis on the 8th and 9th grades.”

The third: “Student to student connectedness needs to be improved across all three grade levels.”

The fourth: “We saw connections between the data and the mindset work we have been doing over the past year.”

The fifth: “Data confirms much of our WASC [Western Association of Schools and Colleges] report (results).”

There are also some examples of district-wide key indicators:

Under the CHKS indicator of connectedness, only 56 percent of junior high students answered yes to the question, “I feel part of my school community.”

Another question – this one aligned to the CHKS indicator of safety – was whether there are “obstacles to learning: Being picked on in school.”

For senior high students, the amount was only six percent, but for junior high students, the yes response came in at 15 percent.


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18 thoughts on “Board To Hear Climate Update, YouthTruth Results”

    1. quielo

      Thanks for the link.

      “Includes norms, values, and expectations that support people feeling socially, emotionally and physically safe.” They seem to have the wrong order here.

      “Positive school climate has been documented to correlate with increased achievement” This slide has a small inset of a graph showing “Connectedness by Ethnicity”. The most obvious take-away is that whoever put the deck together needs more training in powerpoint. The second is the significant difference by ethnicity. Of course if the correlation postulate is correct then the DJUSD achievement tests should correlate with the connectedness, that is Latino students should have 4x higher achievement than White students and 2x higher than Asian students as they are proportionately more “connected”. I read a lot on the Vanguard about the “Achievement Gap” but I didn’t realize this is what you meant.

      1. wdf1

        “Achievement gap” usually comes up when standardized test scores from the previous year are released and discussed, usually in September.  There is a “climate gap” that correlates to the achievement gap, which is observed in this data set on climate.  You can open up the discussion further to note that between the same groupings of students there is a similar differential in participation in extra-curricular activities, trips/vacations to interesting cultural/educational places, etc.  In the broadest sense, this would be called the “opportunity gap.”

        There is a greater tendency to focus on the differences in race/ethnicity and income level, but in Davis, the sharpest dividing line is in parent education level — more or less whether you have only a high school education or less, or whether you have more than a high school education, such as college.

        1. quielo

          I can only look at the data presented. There is not data on this deck on parent educational achievement, just ethnicity. You state “There is a “climate gap” that correlates to the achievement gap, which is observed in this data set on climate.” I still don’t see it. Where is it?

        2. South of Davis

          wdf1 wrote:

          > in Davis, the sharpest dividing line is in parent education level

          The people that really want to help kids focus on this while the people want to prove the teachers in town are “racist” (keeping people of color down) just look at race (ignoring the fact that almost every black kid in the state with PhD parents has higher test scores than white kids who’s parents never went to college)…

    2. wdf1

      If you want to see more of the raw survey data for California Healthy Kids Survey for 1014-15, which is what they’re reviewing tonight, you can look here for the elementary grade (5th grade) that is covered, and here for the secondary grades (7th, 9th, 11th).  I understand that all (or most) schools & districts in California are obligated to give this survey.  At present, I don’t know if there is raw survey data available for Youth Truth.

  1. MrsW

    Thank you wdf, for providing the link to the presentation.  I had a hard time both reading and looking at the presentation.  This is a prime example of how the District uses percentages and statistics to obscure the truth about their school climate and their historic and current inability to create inclusive positive environments.

    According to their own survey, in absolute numbers, hundreds of students don’t feel connected. HUNDREDS.  Hundreds of students don’t believe there are caring adults at school who they can talk to. HUNDREDS.

    You know, we tell children, all of the time, to talk to a trust worthy adult if they have a problem or concern. What if they feel surrounded by adults who are not to be trusted? What if the adults don’t care enough to be trustworthy for all of their students?

    How can this possibly be OK?  Why isn’t everyone alarmed?  I don’t know if there is any hope for DJUSD.  Tragedies happen the individual level.  Columbine was two students.

    1. wdf1

      MrsW:  According to their own survey, in absolute numbers, hundreds of students don’t feel connected. HUNDREDS.  Hundreds of students don’t believe there are caring adults at school who they can talk to. HUNDREDS.

      If you aggregate climate survey data from all 13 grades, or however many take the survey, then I agree that you get hundreds of students.  But I think it’s helpful to see how that data is distributed over the grades, though.  Response to a disaffected student in elementary school might be a little different from a response to a disaffected student in high school.

      1. MrsW

        There are two places in the presentation where percentages are provided and a number of students can be inferred.

        On page 4 is a “Connectedness by ethnicity.”  The highest percentage of connectedness of all ethnicities and all grades is 80%.  So the lowest percentage of connectedness is 20%.  The DHS website has 2014-15 enrollment numbers.  In 2014-15, there were 547 11th graders.  20% of 547 is 109 students.  One grade, one hundred.

        On page 9 is Connectedness by Junior High (56%) or Senior High (62%).  Using the total DHS population of 1718 students and multiplying by 38% yields 653 students who don’t feel connected. By this measure, three grades, six hundred.

        And these results are derived from students who agreed to be polled.

        1. quielo

          Those are some broad assumptions and the presented data is way too general to really determine anything. It has been brought up by another poster that the educational level of the parents is a key variable that is not addressed. This is likely true. Using three colors of similar hue is not ideal and it appears that the top line of the graph represents whites students while they are listed third makes the graph more difficult to grasp and is either a sign of incompetence or obfustication. The line breaks in the graph only augment my diagnosis.

          Anyway interested in seeing more information about this. In my experience consultants are better at identifying problems than providing solutions that actually work but maybe not in this case.

    2. quielo

      “Why isn’t everyone alarmed?” First of all most of us don’t spend our days hanging out with Chicken Little. Second a degree of disaffection among teenagers is “normal” and the show Happy Days was not a documentary. Many people do not look back on Jr/Sr High days as a happy time. 

      The questions I have are:


      Is there in fact a correlation between the two metrics?

      Is there a causation whereby measures to increase “connectedness” also increase achievement? Correlation is often not actionable. For example people who drink dark beer may have a higher risk of having children with cystic fibrosis as both are associate with North European ancestry. However changing your drink of choice to wine will not lower your chances of having a child with CF as your genotype has not changed.





      1. wdf1

        Definitely a correlation, and a likely causation if you look at it by individual student.  If you feel connected to school, then you’ll be more interested in attending, and if a student attends, then likelier he/she will take an interest in putting effort in academics.

        Although I agree with you that students going through adolescence are most likely going to go through periods of not being happy or satisfied with things, there is a very high correlation and causation relationship between those students who finish high school and are regular in their attendance along the way, and those who are involved with school socially and through organizational groups — athletics, clubs, student government, robotics, yearbook, newspaper, performing arts, debate, quiz bowl, etc.

        1. quielo

          In my experience, which of course is only anecdotal, people who involved with “athletics, clubs, student government, robotics, yearbook, newspaper, performing arts, debate, quiz bowl, etc.” Are now delivering packages for UPS while the ones who have been financially and professionally successful did not do any of that stuff. However times may have changed. 



        2. wdf1

          Other lines of observation that might disprove your assertion is that

          1) higher performing (by conventional academic measures) schools and districts (like Davis’) have higher rates of participation in extra-curricular activities than lower performing districts

          2) colleges and universities appear to favor undergraduate applicants (beyond conventional academic measures) who have some degree extra-curricular involvement in high school, even when that extra-curricular activity does not appear to be connected to a career goal.

        3. South of Davis

          quielo wrote:

          > However times may have changed.

          Mind if we ask when and where you went to High School?  I don’t want any details I’m just looking for something like “late 70’s SF Bay Area” or “early 60’s rural TX”.

          The reason I ask is that my experience is totally opposite of yours where I can’t think of a single person who was involved in Student Government and a couple other things who are not doing real well today.

          Many kids who were involved in just one thing (jocks on the football team, artists on the school paper or poets in the drama club) are not doing that well, but I can’t think of anyone in student government with me who was involved with other stuff who did not graduate from college and who is not in a pretty good place today.

      2. MrsW

        “Is there a causation whereby measures to increase “connectedness” also increase achievement?”

        Using school attendance as a surrogate for connectedness–

        Attendance has been linked directly to high school graduation rates.

      3. quielo



        I went to an eastern urban high school during the busing era. Racial tensions and occasional riots. Lots of drugs and you could get a gallon of house brand local wine for $3 across the street. Alcohol age restrictions were not like they are today and I was served my first drink in a bar at 15. A pretty robust program of AP courses for the nerds and freaks (like me). Graduation rate of about 40% but a really good basketball team. I didn’t go to either prom and many kids did not. I think there were 2800 students on a good day. Actually a good day was when there was 1600 students.


        That what you are looking for?

  2. wdf1

    quielo:  ƒIn my experience, which of course is only anecdotal, people who involved with “athletics, clubs, student government, robotics, yearbook, newspaper, performing arts, debate, quiz bowl, etc.” Are now delivering packages for UPS while the ones who have been financially and professionally successful did not do any of that stuff.

    Maybe we live in different realities.

    Although this citation is more than 20 years old, it is a good representation of subsequent related studies.  If you find contrary data/studies, I’m interested to see it.

    June 1995, NCES: Extracurricular Participation and Student Engagement


    Is participation in extracurricular activities related to students’ success in school?

    Indicators of successful participation in school include consistent attendance, academic achievement, and aspirations for continuing education beyond high school. Extracurricular participation(1) was positively associated with each of these success indicators among public high school seniors in 1992 (table 1). During the first semester of their senior year, participants reported better attendance than their non-participating classmates–half of them had no unexcused absences from school and half had never skipped a class, compared with one-third and two-fifths of nonparticipants, respectively. Students who participated were three times as likely to perform in the top quartile on a composite math and reading assessment compared with nonparticipants. Participants were also more likely than nonparticipants to aspire to higher education: two-thirds of participants expected to complete at least a bachelor’s degree while about half of nonparticipants expected to do so. It cannot be known from these data, however, whether participation leads to success, successful students are more inclined to participate, or both occur.


    Although it cannot be known from these data whether the relationship between participation in extracurricular activities and success in school is causal, and although degree or intensity of participation is not measured, it is clear that participation and success are strongly associated as evidenced by participants’ better attendance, higher levels of achievement, and aspirations to higher levels of education. Furthermore, the data indicate that differences in participation were not related to differences in availability, as extracurricular activities were available to virtually all high school seniors regardless of the affluence, size, location or minority status of the schools students attended. Despite wide availability of activities, low SES students participated less than did their high SES classmates. This participation gap is a cause for concern, especially if extracurricular activities can be a means of bringing at-risk students more fully into the school community, thereby increasing their chances of school success. In spite of the gap, however, low SES students participated at fairly high levels, and they persisted in their participation regardless of the relative affluence of the schools they attended. Neither the gap nor the persistence is explained by these data, but together they suggest the value of further study of the individual constraints of poverty and family background and the influence of school community on student engagement.


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