Productive Learning Environments

School Climate Matters

As Georgia Appleseed disseminated the results of its research about student discipline to communities throughout the state, we learned it was important to present not only information about the challenges associated with exclusionary discipline but also to discuss alternative approaches that would keep kids in class while maintaining an effective educational setting.

In the last decade there has been a growing awareness that a supportive school climate is critical in effectively managing student behavior and enhancing academic performance. In Georgia, the state Department of Education and several school districts have embraced a productive educational climate framework called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (“PBIS”). The PBIS framework establishes a school-wide commitment to an approach that is premised on the need to teach students expected behavior, to positively reinforce good behavior, and to use critical discipline data to assess and manage the school’s approach to student discipline.

According to Georgia Appleseed’s Theory of Change, positive school climate is a powerful tool in addressing disproportionality in exclusionary discipline and in converting the school to prison pipeline to the school to success pipeline. Towards such ends, Georgia Appleseed is working with statewide and local stakeholders to promote the PBIS framework in public schools and in early education settings throughout Georgia.

See how to effect School Climate Change in our Toolkit

Statewide Action

Georgia Appleseed is a founding member of the Georgia Education Climate Coalition (“GECC”), a public-private partnership of state agencies, nonprofits, foundations, mental health providers and others, established in 2015. The GECC seeks to inform the education stakeholder community about the importance of educational climate in the K-12 system as well as in early learning settings. The GECC will also be a partner in efforts to address critical issues of equity in school discipline.

Local Action

The promise of PBIS, in combination with restorative justice, social and emotional learning initiatives and other interventions, will only be realized if the framework is embraced at the local level. Georgia Appleseed is committing to working with local communities to lay the groundwork for education climate initiatives.

Georgia Appleseed has worked with several local school districts, with the assistance of pro bono legal support, in reviewing and revising, as needed, local district school discipline codes of conduct. State law requires school districts to review their codes of conduct annually. Georgia Appleseed has developed expertise in reviewing codes of conduct and offering recommendations for revisions that align with a school district’s commitment to productive learning environments, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Georgia Appleseed has also focused its community engagement in school districts across the state to help them pursue their own school climate initiatives, educate community members about the importance of positive learning cultures in schools, and collaborate with the Georgia Department of Education in a comprehensive approach to sharing PBIS both inside and outside the school building, especially by creating more connections and public/private partnerships.

Watch Georgia Appleseed's "Changing Direction: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline" [video] here.

Watch a 5 part series on Positive Learning Climates created by MRESA, Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), and the Georgia Department of Education; produced by Georgia Public Broadcasting

Watch the "Fulton School Justice Summit" from 10/9/2015 here.

Watch the "DeKalb School Justice Summit" from 11/12/2015 here.