School Climate Survey Development

Over the last twenty-five years the Consortium on Chicago School Research has engaged in systematic study of more than 400 Chicago Public Schools to determine organizational traits that are related to improvement in student learning. This effort was designed to help explain widely divergent levels of student success between very similar schools in the Chicago system. Initial discussions with educators at all levels, reviews of previous research, pilot studies, and field studies led to the identification of five school contextual factors – the 5Essential Supports – determined to be critical to school success: (1) effective leaders, (2) collaborative teachers, (3) involved families, (4) supportive environment, and (5) ambitious instruction. The framework of the 5Essential Supports served as a theoretical basis for a survey effort designed to measures and report on facets of school culture that could then be used by school leaders and practitioners to guide school improvement efforts. Research related to the 5Essential Supports consistently demonstrates a strong relationship between the presence of these supports and gains in student achievement.

Led by Dr. James McMillan and Dr. Charol Shakeshaft from VCU’s School of Education, the purpose of this MERC study was (1) to develop a shortened version of the 5Essentials staff climate survey for the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium schools, (2) to pilot test the new survey with teachers and administrators, and (3) to determine effective methods of dissemination to support schools use f the survey data for school improvement purposes. The piloting and validation phase of the study demonstrated that the core constructs underlying the 5Essentials maintained high levels of validity and reliability in the shortened version.  MERC also piloted and received feedback from school leaders on formats for reporting school climate results.

Research Team
Charol Shakeshaft– Co-Principal Investigator, Department of Educational Leadership, VCU
James McMillan– Co-Principal Investigator, Department of Foundations of Education, VCU
Amy Hutton – Graduate Research Assistant, MERC, VCU

Study Team
Jamie Barnes – Evaluation Specialist, Chesterfield County Public Schools
Sean Campbell – Technical Services Specialist, Goochland County Public Schools
Brian Fellows – Principal, Henrico County Public Schools
Jennifer Grief – Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Leadership, Hanover County Public Schools
Helen Whitehurst – Research Specialist, Henrico County Public Schools


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