Hall County and Gainesville City schools offer students a pretty good environment for learning and developing.
The state Department of Education on Monday released its first School Climate Star Rating, which rates school climates on a scale of one to five stars. Five stars represent an excellent school climate, and one star represents a climate needing the most improvement.
According to a release from Matt Cardoza, director of communications for the state department, “School climate refers to the quality and character of school life — a sustainable, positive school climate fosters youth development and student learning, which are essential elements for academic success, improving career skills and overall quality of life.”
Results show Hall County schools have highly rated school climates. The average rating was 3.9 stars, and five schools — C.W. Davis Middle School, North Hall Middle, Flowery Branch Elementary, Oakwood Elementary and Chestnut Mountain Elementary — earned five stars.
The county also had 22 schools earn four stars and of the remaining schools, only Lanier Charter Career Academy earned two stars.
Hall County Schools’ Superintendent Will Schofield said while he had not seen the ratings, he was assured in the quality of his schools’ environments.
“I keep a good enough tab in terms of where our schools are that I’m convinced they’ll be fine and they’ll be positive,” he said. “But we do always want to look at ways to improve. We do want to be the most caring place on Earth.”
Gainesville City Schools performed nearly as well. Its eight schools earned an average 3.375 stars. While no schools earned five stars, four earned four stars, and only one school, The Academy at Wood’s Mill, earned two stars.
Priscilla Collins, Gainesville City Schools’ director of school improvement, said while she was pleased with the above-average results, she and the district will now focus on improving climates in its schools.
“Our goal is to make sure that all of our students, as well as our staff, that they feel those connections to our schools. ...” Collins said. “We want all of our schools to have a four- or five-star rating.”
The School Climate Star Rating is calculated using results from the student health surveys, school personnel surveys and parent surveys, as well as records and data regarding student discipline and attendance for teachers, staff, administrators and students.
The rating is a tool for the faculty and administrators to use, but it does not affect a school’s College and Career Reading Performance Index score, and in some cases, a school could have a low CCRPI score and a high climate rating.
Along with the rating, schools receive access to a comprehensive report regarding the results.
Gainesville City Schools’ Superintendent Wanda Creel said, because this was the first year of the Climate Star Ratings, the school district now knows how to improve.
“As we learn about the new accountability process with the College and Career Ready Performance Index — and this climate ranking is a part of that — we are just beginning to learn what that means,” she said. “As we become more familiar with the criteria that our schools are held accountable for, we can address those particular areas and work to see those improvements.”
Schofield said a school’s climate is vital to a child’s education.
“For 75 years, research has proven a child can’t learn if they don’t feel safe and like they belong,” he said. “So climate is fundamental to having effective schools.”