Introduction to Assessment at the WAASC
Arguably the most critical component of any school's effort to improve the quality of their climate is that of assessment. To know where one is going, one must know where one is today. The Western Alliance for the Study of School Climate uses the techniques and instruments that best fit the needs of the school.
Because our belief is that schools change from within, we feel that, in most cases, the most beneficial assessment system provides a school with a clear picture of where they are in a very concrete and specific manner, and then spells out very clear targets for which to aim in their process of growth. We feel the primary users of a good assessment system are those most involved in the renewal effort. In most cases, that would be a team of teachers and administrators that have made a commitment to doing what it takes to provide a vision and to facilitate the educational process for their peers. Yet we also offer the perspective only an "objective outsider" can provide. The following appendices may be helpful in explaining our approaches to assessment and change facilitation.
School Climate Assessment System Comparison
School Climate bears a significant relationship with student achievement, teacher retention and satisfaction, school violence and the ability for schools to sustain reform. While efforts made by schools to assess the quality of their climate appear to be worth the investment in general, systems for assessing and improving school climate and their efficacy vary substantially. The following comparison demonstrates the difference between traditional systems of climate assessment and those developed by the Western Alliance for School Climate.
The WAASC assessment rubric includes subcategories for each of the following 8 school climate areas:
Traditional forms of school climate assessment are
typically characterized by:
A process controlled largely by outsiders
An opaque definition of school climate
Prescriptions for change that stem from assumptions made by outsiders
An objective survey type inventory (as seen below)
Objective type Survey Item Example1: Teachers at my school help us children with our school problems
Agree Not Sure Disagree
The Western Alliance for School Climate Assessment System is characterized by:
A process driven by the school's own steering/vision team
A transparent definition of school climate
Prescriptions for change generated by the participants who work in the school.
An analytic-scale based instrument (example item shown below)
Analytic Trait Scale Instrument Item Example:
High Middle Low Teacher-student interactions could be typically described as supportive and respectful. Teacher-student interactions could be typically described as fair but teacher-dominated. Teacher-student interactions are mostly teacher-dominated and reactive.
In a study of the efficacy of the WASSC system in an urban setting (Shindler, Taylor, Jones & Cadenas, 2003), significant advantages for a participant-driven, analytic-scale system were observed. The analytic-scale (i.e., rubric) instrument demonstrated greater soundness (i.e., validity, reliability, efficiency and benefit) than traditional inventories. The analytic instrument also proved more practical because it provided users with an educational tool for understanding climate, a venue for constructing a meaningful definition for "quality school climate" aligned with the school's goals, and language that helped participants move from the diagnosis of problems to prescriptions for the cures. Traditional surveys are not designed to provide these benefits. The use of an analytic instrument in the hands of committed faculty and staff creates both ownership and transparency to the assessment process. These findings confirmed previous research that suggests meaningful reform is not possible without both of these conditions being present. Moreover, the WASSC system demonstrated the capacity to provide continuity to school personnel as they attempted to move from assessment to planning to action without losing momentum or vision.
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© 2004 Western Alliance for the Study of School Climate, Charter College of Education, CSULA