By 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.