A growing body of research indicates that schools with positive school climate ratings have better test scores and higher graduation rates. School climate refers to the quality and character of school life. The first step to improving school climate is to measure and analyze it with a school climate survey instrument. The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) is a national leader in the collection and analysis of school climate data through the implementation of its annual Georgia Student Health Survey II (GSHS II). The GSHS II is an anonymous, statewide survey instrument developed by many divisions within the GaDOE including the Assessment and Accountability Division and in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia State University. The GSHS II identifies safety and health issues that have a negative impact on student achievement and school climate.
The GSHS II covers various topics such as school climate and safety, graduation, school dropouts, alcohol and drug use, bullying and harassment, suicide, nutrition, sedentary behaviors, and teen driving laws. The survey is offered at no cost and provides Georgia public school districts (and private schools that wish to participate) with a measurement system to satisfy all requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which specifies that data must be collected for the following categories: incidence, prevalence, age of onset, perception of health risks, and perception of social disapproval of drug use and violence. The survey is also used to guide school prevention and intervention programs and for grant funding.
In 2011, Georgia was the first state in the nation to include school climate as an early indicator in its academic accountability system. GSHS II data results are used to develop a School Climate Star Rating which is used as a diagnostic tool within the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) to determine if a school is on the right path to school improvement. Administered every year during the months of October, November and December, the GSHS II is available online to all public and private schools with grades 6-12. All Georgia public schools are required to participate in the GSHS II. At least 75% of students in each grade level for grades 6-12 must participate in the GSHS II to be eligible for the School Climate Star Rating.
Survey results are available at the school, district and state levels. Survey results are made public and are posted on the GaDOE webpage. Each school and school district that participates in the survey receives a comprehensive report that allows school administrators to compare outcomes and plan accordingly. School administrators may compare the data from their schools and school districts to other schools and school districts as well as state data and with national data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).