Overview of the GaDOE's School Climate Star Rating

July 8, 2014

By Rosaline Tio

This fall, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) will release the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) for the 2013-14 school year. Along with this release, the GaDOE will also publish its Financial Efficiency Rating and School Climate Rating for the first time. While some elements of the School Climate Rating are still being finalized, this month’s e-bulletin focuses on the background behind the rating and how it will be calculated.

School Climate

The National School Climate Center defines school climate as “the quality and character of school life” that is based on the “patterns of students’, parents’, and school personnel’s experiences of school life.”[1] School climate can be influenced by the norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, instructional practices, and organizational structures within a school. Research has found that schools with positive school climates tend to have better test scores and graduation rates; in contrast, schools with negative school climates as a result of unsafe or hostile environments tend to have lower academic performance.[2]

The National School Climate Center has identified four dimensions of school climate: Safety, Relationships, Teaching and Learning, and Institutional Environment.

Figure 1: Four Dimensions of School Climate

 

Source: National School Climate Center. (2014).

Georgia’s School Climate Star Rating

Georgia is one of the first U.S. states to include school climate as an indicator in its statewide accountability system. Along with a CCRPI score, each school will also receive a Financial Efficiency Rating and a School Climate Rating.

The School Climate Star Rating will be based on a scale of one to five stars.  A rating of one star will indicate a low school climate score, while a rating of five stars will indicate a high school climate score. GaDOE’s Safe and Drug Free Schools Division has identified five components that will be used to calculate a school’s overall School Climate Rating:

School Climate Star Rating Components 
Component Effect on Total Score Description

School Climate Perceptions

25% of Total Score Utilizes responses from three annual surveys of school climate: Georgia Student Health Survey II, Georgia School Personnel Survey, Parent Survey

Student Discipline

25% of Total Score Utilizes student-level discipline data and school full-time equivalency (FTE) enrollment counts to determine a school's weighted suspension rate

Safe and Substance-Free Learning Environment

25% of Total Score Utilizes survey and discipline data to determine the ratio of a school's Drugs and Alcohol, Bullying, and Dangerous Incidents to all reported incidents in the school

Schoolwide Attendance

25% of Total Score Calculates a school's attendance rate based upon student, teacher, administrator, and staff attendance records and certified/classified personnel records (CPI records)

Additional Considerations

May increase or decrease overall rating Points can be subtracted if a school is on the Unsafe School Choice Option list or demonstrates disciplinary disproportionality.  Points can be added if a school implements a School Personalized Climate Evidence-Based Program or Practice with fidelity and shows improvement in one of the four dimensions of school climate.

The following section describes the calculations for each of these components. 

School Climate Star Rating Calculations

School Climate Perceptions

The GaDOE collects data on perceptions of school climate for students, personnel, and parents using three surveys. During the 2013-14 school year, it collected student data on the Georgia Student Health Survey II (GSHS II), personnel data on the Georgia School Personnel Survey, and parent data on the Parent Survey, which was administered to parents from October 29, 2013 to January 31, 2014. The footnote includes more information on each survey.[3] Each survey asks respondents to strongly disagree (0 points), disagree (1 point), agree (2 points), and strongly agree (3 points) with a range of statements about the school.

Using the survey responses, the GaDOE will calculate the Average School Climate Perception for students, personnel, and parents using the formula below.

This Average School Climate Perception score for each survey will then be converted from a 3-point scale to a 100-point scale for use in the calculation.

To take into account whether school climate perceptions between the three groups align, GaDOE will calculate the variance of the three values. Since schools with lower variances demonstrate more agreement on perceptions of school climate between students, personnel, and parents, it will rank schools within each grade cluster (Elementary, Middle, and High) based on the inverse of the variance.

The final School Climate Perceptions score will be an average of the student, personnel, parent, and congruency scores.

Student Discipline

GaDOE will calculate an inverse weighted suspension rate for each school based upon student-level discipline data and school full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment. Each student will be assigned a point value based on the maximum disciplinary consequence he/she receives in a year.[4] The following table will be used to determine a point value for each student:

Consequence Points
No suspension 0.0 pts
Any ISS 0.5 pts
1-2 Days OSS 1.0 pts
3-4 Days OSS 3.0 pts
5-9 Days OSS 5.0 pts
10+ Days OSS 7.0 pts
Alternative School Assignment 6.0 pts
Expulsion 7.0 pts
Source: Georgia Department of Education

 

To obtain the Student Discipline score, GaDOE will use the following formula:

This inverse weighted suspension rate will then be converted to a 100-point scale for use in the calculation. The inverse is used so that schools with fewer suspensions will earn more points on this portion of the rating. Any school with a negative score will automatically receive a score of 0.

Safe and Substance-Free Learning Environment

This component will utilize discipline and Student Health Survey II data to determine the ratio of a school’s Drugs and Alcohol, Bullying, and Dangerous Incidents to all reported incidents in the school.[5] Since the GaDOE will use data from school-level discipline reports and the GSHS II survey for each of the three categories, there will be six data elements that will be used in the calculations.

For each ratio, the GaDOE will use the following formula:

The inverse percentages for the six data elements will then be averaged to obtain the Safe and Substance-Free Learning Environment score out of 100. A higher score will indicate that a school has a learning environment that is safer and substance-free.

Schoolwide Attendance

Student, teacher, administrator, and staff attendance will be averaged to determine the Schoolwide Attendance score.

For the 2013-14 school year only, the student attendance rate will be the percentage of total days present for all students in a school out of the total days in a school year.[6] For all future school years, the student attendance rate will be the percentage of students who have missed less than six days of school in a year out of all students in a school.[7]

The attendance rate for teachers, administrators, and staff will be calculated independently using the same steps for each group.[8] Within each group, the attendance rate will be the percentage of total days present for all group members out of the total contract days in the school year.[9]

The student, administrator, teacher, and staff attendance rates will then be averaged to determine the overall Schoolwide Attendance score out of 100.

Additional Considerations

Schools will either gain or lose points based on three additional factors:

  • If a school implements a School Personalized Climate Evidence-Based Program or Practice with fidelity and shows improvement in one of the four dimensions of school climate, it will receive five additional points to its overall score prior to calculating the final star rating.[10]
  •  If a school has two consecutive years of Unsafe School Choice Option (USCO) violations, it will lose one star from the final rating. If a school is considered “persistently dangerous” (three consecutive years of USCO violations), it will lose two stars from the final rating.[11]
  • If a school has two consecutive years of disciplinary disproportionality of students in the non-majority subgroup relative to students in the majority subgroup, it will lose one star from the final school climate rating.[12]  Disciplinary disproportionality exists within a school if the non-majority subgroup is five times more likely to be suspended relative to students in the majority subgroup. 

Determining the Final School Climate Star Rating

All of the scores from the above components will be averaged to obtain one overall score for each school. After any additional points from School Personalized Climate Evidence-Based Programs are considered, the overall score will be converted to a z-score to rank schools within each grade cluster.  GaDOE has not yet finalized the z-score ranges for the final star ratings, but the ranges will be contingent upon the distribution of overall school climate scores. The final school climate star rating will be on a scale of one to five stars.[13]

Summary and Next Steps

Georgia is one of the first states to include a measure of school climate as part of its statewide accountability system. The School Climate Rating incorporates measures of school perceptions, discipline, attendance, and safety to provide schools, districts, and communities with more accountability information than in the past. As this new rating system is released this fall, GOSA will look for opportunities to conduct further research on the implications of a School Climate Rating system and state trends related to school climate.  


[1] National School Climate Center. (2014). School Climate. Retrieved from http://www.schoolclimate.org/climate/.

[2] Thapa, Amrit, Jonathan Cohen, Shawn Guffey, and Ann Higgins-D’Alessandro. 2013. “A Review of School Climate Research.” Review of Educational Research 83(3): 357-385. 

[3] The GSHS II Survey is administered annually to students in grades 6-12. The GaDOE will use 11 questions from the GSHS II survey with a 75% participation rate requirement for each grade level. An elementary survey for grades 4-5 was introduced March 2014. The Georgia School Personnel Survey was first administered May 2013 and will also have a 75% participation rate requirement. The Parent Survey was newly introduced in the 2013-14 school year. Schools must have 15 or more responses to the Parent Survey in order for the Parent Survey calculation to be included. An asterisk in the school climate calculations will note if a school has fewer than 15 responses.

[4] Students with repeated suspensions will only be counted once using their maximum consequence.

[5] “Dangerous incidents” excludes those coded as “others,” academic dishonesty, and disorderly conduct.

[6] Total days will be found by summing together days present with days absent for all students.

[7] The six day line of demarcation is based on research that shows that a negative impact on student achievement begins after a student’s fifth absence, regardless of the reason for the absence.

[8] Schools will not be penalized for days that teachers, administrators, and staff members are on professional development leave, long-term sick leave (including long-term illnesses and maternity leave exceeding 30 days), and other leave (including military leave, jury duty, court or legal leave, administrative leave, etc.).  However, vacation and sick leave will be counted as absent days.  If long-term sick leave exceeds 30 days, it will be recoded to 30 days in the total leave calculation.

[9] Total days present will be found by subtracting total leave days from total contracted days. Total days will be the sum of leave days and contracted days for all personnel in a group.

[10] Schools must submit an application to a GaDOE review committee providing a description of the program or practice used and data that demonstrates successful implementation. Examples of research/evidence-based programs or practices include Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), mentoring programs, service learning programs, peer mediation, and more.

[11] A USCO violation can occur when a school has at least one student who is found by official action to have violated a school rule related to a violent criminal offense, including aggravated battery, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated sodomy, armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, murder, rape, and voluntary manslaughter. A USCO violation can also occur when either two percent of the student body or 10 students (whichever is greater) have violated school rules related to other criminal offenses, including non-felony drugs, felony drugs, felony weapons, or terroristic threats either on campus or at a school-related event. More information can be found here.

[12] The majority subgroup is defined as the subgroup with the largest number of students.  The non-majority subgroup is comprised of all other racial/ethnic subgroups.  The non-majority subgoup must meet a subgroup size of 15 and have an incident count of at least 5.

[13] To determine the final star rating, a school’s overall average score from the components will be compared to other schools within its grade cluster by seeing how far away a school’s score is from the cluster’s mean school climate score. The number of standard deviations a school’s score is away from the mean will correlate to how many stars a school will receive for its school climate rating.