The Georgia Department of Education's (GaDOE's) Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading (L4GA) initiative focuses on building strong literacy skills in students from prekindergarten through grade 12. To improve the nearly 40 percent of students who are reading below grade level as reported in the 2020/21 data (Georgia Department of Education, 2021), L4GA's work is built on these four pillars:
GaDOE, in collaboration with Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southeast, formed the School Climate and Literacy for Georgia (SCAL4GA) partnership to bolster its efforts with regard to L4GA's third pillar—positive learning environment. GaDOE has observed that many Georgia districts tend to focus on improving the learning environment (that is, the school climate) and reading achievement as separate efforts. The state education agency (SEA) recognizes that a high-leverage, research-based strategy for improving students' reading outcomes includes improving school climate. Multiple correlational studies demonstrate that there is a significant, positive relationship between reading achievement and school climate (Kwong & Davis, 2015; Sherblom et al., 2006; Thapa et al., 2013). Many dimensions of school climate, such as student-teacher relationships, teacher-parent trust, order and safety, and academic support, are positively associated with student reading achievement (Daily et al., 2019; Hart et al., 2020; Maxwell et al., 2017).
The SCAL4GA partners from GaDOE consist of staff from across the SEA who lead and monitor L4GA, school climate, and innovative teaching and learning efforts.
SCAL4GA's goals are to develop a greater understanding of the relationship between Georgia's school climate and students' reading achievement, improve state and district staff understanding of evidence-based practices for improving school climate, and support district and school staff in implementing evidence-based practices for improving school climate and monitoring the use of school climate data to improve student outcomes. To achieve these goals, SCAL4GA will engage in two projects. The first is an analysis project to better understand the relationship between Georgia's school climate measures and literacy outcomes. If the results suggest the measure is strongly associated with students' reading outcomes, then REL Southeast will support GaDOE by delivering training sessions for districts on connecting school climate and reading outcomes.
REL Southeast is working with GaDOE to better understand the relationship between students' reading achievement and schools' climate. The state's school climate measure includes four components: results from the Student Health Survey, a measure of student, teacher, and parent perceptions of school climate; student disciplinary rates; results from the Safe and Substance-Free Learning Environment survey; and attendance rates.
During a series of coaching sessions, REL Southeast and GaDOE are working to prepare the data for analysis, conduct analyses, co-interpret the results, and communicate the findings to audiences across the state.
The state's current analysis will drive SCAL4GA's next steps. If the results suggest the state's school climate measure might need to include additional school climate dimensions more closely associated with reading outcomes, then REL Southeast will collaborate with GaDOE to advise on strengthening the measure.
If the results suggest the measure is strongly associated with students' reading outcomes, then REL Southeast will support GaDOE by delivering training sessions for districts. These sessions will provide guidance on how to connect school climate and reading improvement efforts using evidence-based practices and provide examples of formative measures to monitor their effects on school climate.
Stay tuned! Learn more about the SCAL4GA partnership and other REL Southeast partnerships here. We look forward to providing updates and progress on our work in the coming months.