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Teach Plus Calls on Legislature to Prioritize Positive School Climate

April 6, 2021

Sacramento, CA ―Teach Plus California today issued the following statement as the Legislature considers Senate Bill 699.
“The crises of the last year have made it clearer than ever the critical role our schools play in fostering the emotional and mental well-being of our children. As we reflect on the lessons of the last year and consider how to invest significant resources in our schools, this is a moment for state leaders to lay the groundwork for truly transforming the culture and climate of schools,” said Teach Plus California Executive Director Sarah Lillis. A newly released brief from Teach Plus California Policy Fellows, Making Positive School Climate a Priority, sets forth clear recommendations for state policymakers to ensure that all students attend schools in which they feel safe, valued, cared for, respected, and engaged. These include elevating school climate surveys as an indicator in the state accountability system and to ensure consistent, comparable data statewide; recognizing and celebrating schools and districts which have demonstrated improvement in school climate, particularly for those working to eliminate racial injustice in schools; and providing meaningful support and professional development for educators to ensure they are equipped to support changes that will help improve school climate.
The challenges of the last year, both the pandemic and the reckoning with our racist systems, have taken an enormous social and emotional toll on our students and have reinforced how important it is for our schools to prioritize the overall well-being of our students. We believe that our students deserve to feel confident that the policies and systems in place are supporting programs to enhance and maintain safe and affirming environments for all. As Teach Plus California Policy Fellow and Fontana Unified Instructional Coach Tina Starks said, “A healthy school climate fosters active engagement which is a critical part of the learning process. Students can fully engage when they are affirmed in their identities while being assured of their belonging and mattering.” 
To this end, Teach Plus California is sponsoring Senate Bill 699, a bill carried by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, which would make clear that school climate is a priority on equal footing with other indicators, like academic achievement. The bill, which will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, April 7, would direct the State Board of Education to adopt a statewide school climate indicator, consisting of a subset of the data collected from the California Healthy Kids Survey and other survey tools that include the same data.
Teach Plus has also advocated for more ongoing investment in school climate surveys through the state budget. But SB 699 is an essential step in setting the goal of elevating school climate surveys in our statewide system of accountability and support. “We are in the business of changing lives, but we can’t do it without SB 699.  Providing the means to improve school climate would mean that students and staff can feel safe, accepted, and thrive both emotionally and academically,” says Teach Plus California Policy Fellow and Hamilton High School Teacher Rina Gonzalez.
About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes and improving the instructional practices of teachers to create an education system driven by equity, access, and excellence for all students.