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Center for Human and Social Development

Patricia Heindel, Ph.D.
Santa Rita Hall 409

Phone: (973) 290-4102

School Culture and Climate Initiative

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The Center for Human and Social Development offers the School Culture and Climate Initiative (SCCI).

The goal of the SCCI is to provide school districts with the means to improve their culture and climate resulting in an environment where children can thrive emotionally, physically, and academically, and where students, the family, and the wider community are engaged in the schools.

Addressing children's social-emotional skills and establishing a positive school culture and climate creates an environment in which bullying declines, where children feel connected, safe, and respected and an environment in which they can learn.

The evidence is overwhelming. Improving children's social-emotional skills and school culture and climate has been found to lead to an average gain of 11 percentile points on standardized academic achievement test scores as well as significant declines in conduct problems and disciplinary issues and increases in measures of emotional and social well-being (Berkowitz & Bier, 2006; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011).

This research complements the more long-standing finding that schools providing a supportive and cooperative learning environment have lowered rates of risky behaviors such as delinquency, alcohol and drug use and sexual activity in students (Battistich, Schaps, Watson, Solomon, & Lewis, 2000; Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992; Resnick et al., 1997; Wilson, Gottfredson, & Najaka, 2001).

The approach most often used to address social-emotional learning (SEL) and character development (CD) in schools is to adopt add-on programs targeted directly at SEL. However, building these skills through programs alone has not been sufficient nor is sustainable. Attention must be directed to a larger process of school and district-wide change, involving school culture and climate and a more intentional focus on promoting students' SEL and CD throughout the curriculum.

The SCCI is such a process and enables schools to:

  • Assess perceived school culture and climate from the perspectives of school faculty, staff, students, and parents;
  • Receive expert support and guidance from trained professionals to analyze the results of the culture and climate assessment;
  • Receive training for school community members in ways to promote students social and emotional skills and character development leading to students' school and life success;
  • Implement a structured process to improve school climate;
  • Implement a process to develop a set of core values created and shared by the school community.

Patricia Heindel, Center Director ( and Elizabeth Warner ( are the Co-Directors of the School Culture and Climate Initiative.