Developing schools that are drug-free, safe havens for positive youth development is central to a school’s mission and ability to teach. The California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) provides us with credible information on the scope and nature of health-risk behaviors and resilience factors that predict students’ success in school.
Healthy students learn better. Research has shown that meeting the basic developmental needs of students by ensuring that they are safe, drug-free, healthy, and resilient is central to improving their academic performance. Research studies and reviews over the past decade have consistently concluded that student health status and achievement are inextricably intertwined. For more information on these studies, click HERE.
Youth Feedback & Involvement. Educators and community members should not underestimate the importance of asking students their opinion. Survey results can be most effectively used as an invitation to further explore with students their experiences on the school campus. This is one of the benefits of conducting the survey. Not only can you learn important information from discussing the findings with students, but the process itself can help foster resilience and positive youth development. It communicates to students that you value their opinion and that you care about them. It gives youth an opportunity for meaningful participation. It is important that adults ask youth questions such as “Why do they think a particular problem occurs?” and “Do they think current programs in school are helpful? If not, why? What would they do about it?”
California Department of Education and the CHKS. The CHKS was developed by WestEd and Duerr Evaluation Resources for the California State Department of Education to provide a resource for schools, districts and counties to assess health-risk behaviors and resilience among their youth. The CHKS is anonymous and confidential. It is administered to students at grades 5, 6, 7, 9, and 11. It enables schools and communities to collect and analyze data regarding local youth health risks and behaviors, school connectedness, and protective factors.
MBUSD Health and Safety Committee. As part of our on-going efforts to provide safe and drug-free, positive learning environments for students, the MBUSD Health and Safety Committee reviews the CHKS and advises based on its results annually. This committee is comprised of key school staff; community leaders in the field of substance use prevention, intervention and safety; and representatives from parent groups.
Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The CHKS is also an important component of California’s new LCAP accountability system, which requires that LEAs objectively measure pupil knowledge, skills, and behaviors and set concrete and measurable goals for making improvement. At the heart of the CHKS is a research-based core module that provides valid indicators to promote student engagement and achievement, safety, positive development, health, and overall well-being.
How do our students compare to others in our area? Comparing CHKS results with other local, regional, state, or national data may help guide program decisions by placing the results in a larger context. How do students compare to others in their area? Are local trends also occurring on a large scale? If so, the local changes might be rooted less in local circumstances or programs than on broader sociocultural trends. To view CHKS results from other school districts, click HERE.
School programs and data-driven decision making. Assessing and understanding CHKS results is a necessary first step in conducting a needs assessment, setting goals, and even program evaluation for schools. Moreover, children who perceive positive climates at their schools achieve higher scores on measures of academic achievement—including tests in language, reading, and math, and overall grade point average.
2021-2022 CA Healthy Kids Sample Surveys
Middle School Level
High School Level
Past Survey Results
Click HERE to view past CHKS results for MBUSD.
Additional CHKS information from WestEd and the CDE
(A Framework for Improving School Climate, 2011)
WHY SCHOOL CLIMATE MATTERS
A growing body of research provides support for the impact of school climate factors on student academic, behavioral, and social–emotional outcomes. Students’ perceptions of positive school climate are related to a variety of school adjustment indicators, including academic motivation and school connectedness, attitudes toward learning, and conflict resolution skills. Students who attend schools with positive climates engage in fewer risk–taking and violent behaviors, have fewer discipline referrals and school suspensions, and report feeling safer at school and more willing to report potential.
A STRENGTHS–BASED APPROACH/FRAMEWORK
Underlying CDE’s approach to school climate improvement is the growing body of research demonstrating the importance of a strength–based or developmental approach. Successful teaching and learning cannot occur unless basic environmental supports and opportunities are in place to create positive school climates that meet the developmental needs of teachers and students. All individuals, both young and old, have basic human needs which include, but are not limited to, the needs for safety, love and belonging, respect, power, challenge and mastery. Research has found that meeting these developmental needs is essential for fostering resilience, the ability for successful adaptation in the face of trauma, adversity, and/or stress. Longitudinal developmental resilience research finds that the presence of three inter–related developmental supports and opportunities (also know as protective factors) together in any single environment—whether school, home, community, or peer group—play a critical role in determining whether these needs are met. The three protective factors are:
RESILIENCE: IT’S HOW YOU DO WHAT YOU DO
One of the fundamental lessons to be drawn from resilience research is that schools that create environments rich in these three developmental supports are more likely to report higher levels of student engagement, school connectedness, better attendance and performance, and to have lower rates of dropping out, alcohol, and other drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and delinquency than other schools. Michael Rutter, in his classic research into effective schools in high poverty communities, found that “turnaround schools”—schools that were successfully able to narrow the achievement gap for students in high poverty areas were those that created a school climate rich in these three protective factors. Resilience research goes beyond the WHAT and delves into the HOW.
FOCUS ON HOW, NOT WHAT
In many situations, school reform strategies primarily focus on improving academic curriculum, programs, and materials. While such changes are often essential, they are also often not sufficient in themselves. Reform or school improvement efforts, as well as teacher education and practice in general, largely ignore the school climate and the related learning barriers that can impede students’ motivation and ability to benefit from any improvements in curriculum, programs, or materials. Too often efforts that focus on curriculum, programs, and materials ignore the role of other information that can be simultaneously communicated in the classroom by HOW the teacher teaches rather than WHAT a teacher teaches. Thus, changing curriculum, programs, materials, or specific subject content may improve what is taught in a classroom, but may not alter what is learned. In other words: It’s not WHAT you do; it’s HOW you do it. Key to improving how we teach is purposefully striving to ensure that teaching provides these three fundamental developmental supports.
AT THE CORE OF THE THEORY
In an educational context, the presence of these three developmental supports in schools contributes to creating and sustaining a positive school climate—one that is optimal for fostering resilience. They promote school connectedness and, thus, learning engagement. They mitigate and buffer the negative effect that trauma, stress, and adversities such as poverty, racism, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and physical and mental illness may have on individuals and their ability and motivation to learn. This, in turn, contributes to the healthy and successful development and emergence of children’s and adults’ personal developmental competencies and strengths, such as social competence, ability to problem–solve, autonomy (sense of self), and sense of purpose and future. The flow of the theory continues: the enhancement of individual strengths contributes to a reduction in their health risk behaviors and an increase in school connectedness and all aspects of their healthy development and life success—physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively, and morally/spirituality.
This strengths–based developmental theory of change underlies most effective prevention and educational interventions. Continued research supports the application of this theory not only as it relates to young people from high–risk environments but also to all people regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or geographic setting. It is imperative for our young people’s healthy development and school and life success, that schools address school climate by providing educational environments that motivate and engage children and adults in meeting their developmental needs in positive ways.
WestEd "What Works Briefs" for School Climate: Short summary of research-based practices, strategies and programs for improving school climate. Based on current research in education, school psychology, and other related disciplines, each What Works Brief provides a number of practical recommendations for school staff, parents, and community members.