School Climate Survey Development

James H. McMillan, Virginia Commonwealth University
Charol Shakeshaft, Virginia Commonwealth University
Amy C. Hutton, Virginia Commonwealth University
Samantha Hope, Virginia Commonwealth University


Those engaged in systemic school reform efforts have long recognized that how a school functions as an organization is a key contributor to school and student success. A range of research on this topic demonstrates that schools with high cooperation between teachers and administrators, strong support of students, and clear expectations have significantly higher levels of student achievement, even in schools representing traditionally underserved populations.

Interest in the relationship between school climate and school success has led a number of school systems (both state and local) to adopt school climate measures that assess various dimensions of a school’s organizational culture. The hope is that the results of these measures will be useful in guiding school improvement efforts. Among the current school climate measures that exist, perhaps the most robust is the 5Essentials Survey developed by the Consortium on Chicago School Research. The 5Essentials survey - which includes teacher, student, and parent versions – was developed over a number of years in collaboration with Chicago Public Schools. The survey measures 5 qualities of school climate that, through subsequent research, have demonstrated a strong relationship to school and student success: (1) effective leaders, (2) collaborative teachers, (3) involved families, (4) supportive environment, and (5) ambitious instruction. Since its development, the 5Essential Survey has been adapted for use in a number of districts across the country.

The purpose of this study was to validate a shortened version of the 5Essentials Survey for teachers and school personnel for use by the schools and school divisions within the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium. The shortened version of the survey was piloted with teachers and administrators and a study team of school division personnel proposed effective dissemination strategies of results that would support school improvement processes among school personnel. Ultimately, it is hoped that the survey will provide an inexpensive, credible, and accurate measure of climate variables that can be used on an ongoing basis to chart progress over time and inform resource allocation for school improvement.