Introduction to the ASSC Assessment System

The most critical part of any school's effort to improve the quality of their climate is that of the assessment component. To know where one is going, one must know where one currently. The Alliance for the Study of School Climate (ASSC) offers a series of comprehensive School Climate Assessment Instruments (SCAI) and support services to assist schools in achieving a clear sense of where they are and where they can go.

Because our belief is that schools change from within we feel that the most beneficial assessment system is one that provides a school with a clear picture of where they are in a very concrete and specific manner. One could compare our SCAIs to powerful mirrors for self-reflection. It is also important that the assessment process lead to clear targets for which to aim in the process of growth One of the unique features of the ASSC SCAIs is that they act to steer a school in a more functional and effective direction. To support your school's assessment process ASSC provides a comprehensive roadmap system which is explained in detail in the book The Transformative Leader's Roadmap for Facilitating School Excellence.

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. Our assessment instruments provide clear procedural protocols so that they can be used independent of any external support. Yet we also offer the perspective only an "objective outsider" can provide. ASSC has developed a series of SCAI tools, each suited to specific members of the school community. The SCAI version for each stakeholder group is cross-referenced, so that responses for each item can be compared across groups. These SCAI include:

School Climate Assessment Instruments - SCAI

  • Secondary School Climate Assessment Instrument - General (SCAI-S-G). Available online to provide schools with an example of the design and content used by ASSC.
    This instrument should be used with secondary teachers, parents, staff, administrators and external assessment consultants.
  • Secondary School Climate Assessment Instrument - Student (SCAI-S-S)
    This instrument is intended as a compliment to the data from the SCAI-S-G and should be used with 6-12th grade level student participants.
  • Elementary School Climate Assessment Instrument - General (SCAI-E-G)
    This instrument should be used with elementary teachers, parents, staff, administrators and external assessment consultants.
  • Elementary School Climate Assessment Instrument - Student (SCAI-E-S)
    This instrument is intended as a compliment to the data from the SCAI-S-G and should be used with 2-6th grade student participants.
  • Parent and Community School Climate Assessment Instrument (SCAI-P)

Student Survey (working sample)

Teachers and Staff Survey (working sample)

Examining the Reliability and Validity of the ASSC School Climate Assessment Instrument (SCAI)

All Climate Assessment Instruments from ASSC are copyrighted. Permission is required for use. For all schools undertaking formal school climate assessment efforts using the ASSC SCAIs the purchase of a site license is required.

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 Alliance for School Climate.

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 Example 1:
Teachers at my school help our children with our school problems
Agree Not Sure Disagree

The 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.
--- -- ---

Comparison Research

In a study of the efficacy of the ASSC 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 ASSC 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.

Sub-Scales of the School Climate Assessment Instrument

In the ASSC SCAI overall school climate is divided into 8 sub-factors. These 8 dimensions comprise a comprehensive definition of school climate and function. Each of these 8 factors is described in the table below.

Sub-Scale Description
Physical Appearance Examines the relationship between the physical characteristics and environment of a school and the climate that it promotes. This dimension includes the degree to which intentional efforts have been made related to the consideration of the perceptions outsiders and expectations and treatment of custodial staff.
Faculty Relations Examines the relationship between how members of the faculty relate to one another its effects on the climate of the school. This dimension includes the degree to which collaboration, respect, capacity to interact, and a sense of collective purpose exist among the members of the faculty. It also includes the explicit and explicit expectations among faculty members as to how decisions are made and duties are delegated and performed.
Student Interactions Examines the relationships among student expectations, peer interactions, and their place in the school and the climate that is exists. This dimension includes the degree to which students' interactions are governed by intention vs. accidental qualities.
Leadership and Decision-Making Examines the relationships among decision-making mechanisms, how administrative authority is manifested and the climate that is created as a result. This dimension includes the degree to which the collective possesses a shared sense of values and an operational vision. It also explores the ways in which the quality of leadership affects school life.
Discipline and Management Environment Examines the relationship between the management and discipline approaches used within the school and the climate that is created as a result. This dimension includes the degree to which management strategies promote higher levels of responsibility and motivation. It also examines teacher-student interactions as a source of management and motivation.
Learning, Instruction and Assessment Examines the relationships among the instructional strategies and the assessment methods used in the school and the climate that is created. Instruction is explored as it relates to its level of engagement, student empowerment and authenticity. Higher quality instruction and assessment methods are contrasted to less effective methods by the degree to which they promote a psychology of success rather than a psychology of failure.
Attitude and Culture Examines the pervasive attitudes and cultures that operate within the school and their relationship to the climate. This dimension explores the degree to which social and/or communal bonds are present within the school, the attitudes that the members of the school possess, and the level of pride and ownership they feel. It includes the degree to which efforts in this area are made intentionally or left to chance.
Community Relations Examines the relationship between the way that the school is perceived externally and its climate. This dimension includes the degree to which the school is welcoming, takes advantage of the resources in the local community including parents, and acts intentionally as a center of community life.

Characterization of Each of the 3 School Climate Levels as Measured in the ASSC SCAI

Each item in the ASSC SCAIs depict 3 levels of performance. Items characterize specific aspects of school performance, but taken in aggregate demonstrate an overall level of performance. These levels of performance could be classified by the following descriptive categories.

Level 3 Level 2 Level 1
System Intentional Semi-intentional Accidental
Ethos Sound vision translated into effective practice Good Intentions translated into practices that "work." Practices defined by the relative self-interest of faculty and staff
Effect on Students Experience changes students for the better Experience has a mixed effect on students Experience has a net negative effect on students
Staff relations Collaborative Collegial Competitive
General Characterization Encouraging and Empowering Opportunities for those who seek them out Discouraging and limiting
Teachers' Orientation toward students and learning Operate as lead learners in which the learning community encourages a reciprocal validating learning relationship between teacher and student Operate as teachers in which the school encourages a hierarchal supportive learning relationship of teacher to student Operate as employees of an institution in which there exist a very limited hostile relationship of teacher over student
Students' view of the classroom dynamic Empowered to see themselves as the most significant element of the learning environment responsible for collective success Willing to see the teacher as the most significant element of the learning environment worthy of student respect and support Unable to see any person as a significant element in the classroom. All participants are expendable.
Process for school Improvement Internally derived by all stakeholders through praxis, best practices Externally derived by school leadership by acquiring existing models Externally implemented by outside groups and implicitly or explicitly opposed by the stakeholders
Evaluation of performance School identifies and creates benchmarks for success aligned to the mission and vision of school and creates assessments to measure attainment School adheres to the defined benchmarks of external forces and aligns assessments to measure attainment School sees evaluation as a punitive approach to motivate non-compliant participants

Note: The ASSC SCAIs has been used in hundreds of schools. They have shown themselves to be a highly valid assessment instruments. However, reporting the data that is generated and using it to make change is a rather relative matter. Reporting the data can be done in many ways. It is best to consult with the ASSC provider and determine a format that best suits the needs and purposes of your school. ASSC offers sample reports that have been generated by other schools to those who enter into a site license agreement as a means of further assistance.