Behind the Scenes
Symposium on school climate attracts key education stakeholders

School Climate: Creating a Space for Learning

"School culture," said symposium keynoter Pedro Noguera, " is the part of school reform most often ignored. It's how we are greeted at the door, what we see on the playground, in the lunch room, in the teachers' lounge. We tend to ignore these characteristics, which distinguish one school from another. If you can't change the school's culture, nothing changes."

Dr. Noguera, noted sociologist, author and Professor at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, addressed a gathering of education stakeholders at a symposium co-hosted by Need in Deed and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook on Thursday, January 14, 2010. The event, which attracted a cross-section of stakeholders -- educators, funders and policy makers -- was held at the Comcast Center in downtown Philadelphia.

School climate is a factor that can either foster a positive academic experience or increase a student's vulnerabilities. Creating a positive school and classroom environment can have far reaching effects, including reducing the problem of school drop out.

Following Dr. Noguera's remarks, panelists were invited to respond with their own unique perspectives. They included:

  • Dave Davies, moderator, Senior Reporter for WHYY and guest host for NPR's "Fresh Air"
  • Khalif Dobson, a senior at West Philadelphia High School and a member of the Philadelphia Student Union
  • Johnny Irizarry, member of the School Reform Commission
  • Celeste Rodriguez, 7th grade literacy teacher at Stetson Middle School and a member of NID's Teacher Network, and
  • Sheila Simmons, Education Director at Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

The symposium precedes the upcoming release of Research for Action's evaluation report on NID's program outcomes, which measures several factors impacting school climate. Already, findings from the first year of the three-year evaluation suggest that NID's greatest impact on students is through the development of a supportive classroom environment.

Sponsors for the symposium event were:
  • The Patricia Kind Family Foundation
  • Towers Perrin
  • Willis RE and
  • Haverford Trust.