One implication is that if we want to know how conducive the school environment is to learning, we should be measuring the extent to which students and teachers feel connected to one other. That is, we should be looking for ways to “measure relationships”. This is the sort of information that school climate surveys try to capture.
We heard this idea expressed at other points of the conference. In the session on “Getting Accountability Right”, it was suggested that – in addition to “student achievement” - we should also measure the “antecedents” to learning. That is, we should monitor the behaviors that are known to create a positive learning environment; what the adults in the school community are doing, as well as the students.
Wheatley also noted that “a healthy community involves youth in decision-making.” Not only are community decisions better informed when its younger members are part of the conversation, this also helps students develop the skills for active citizenship.
As an aside, two of the best arguments that I've heard in support of official student representation on school boards came from two student members of the "100 District Leaders" who attended the NSBA conference. In their experience, full student participation provides:
- A "reality check" for the rest of the board on the practical impact of board policy.
- A communication bridge from students to the board, and vice-versa.