Academic report encourages healthy social environment

Kaely Holloway

This month, Education Week, a national education newspaper, released the 17th edition of their annual Quality Counts report.

This report focused on how social and disciplinary aspects of a school can have great effect on student success and achievement. Though information about this report was gathered nationwide through high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, the information and findings reflect back on education at all levels.


Information and research for the report was collected two ways, for two separate aspects of education: educational policies and performance.

Surveys were distributed to chief state school officers in all states, who then passed the surveys down to designated representatives to fill out and send back.

The second research method involved analysis of test scores, national assessment data, U.S. Census Bureau data and various undisclosed sources.

Sterling Lloyd, senior research associate for the newspaper, said about 70 percent of teachers and administrators surveyed felt school climate is important to student achievement.

“School climate is important regardless of whether it’s grades k-12 or it’s university level, it all applies in a variety of settings,” he said.

The report states that most national education initiatives focus primarily on curriculum, testing and personnel. But some are realizing the importance of peer relationships and safety and security.

Betsy Pierce, psychologist in the Counseling Center at WKU, said in an email that people supported by a strong network of family and friends are generally less stressed.

“These healthy connections with others provide some measure of feeling secure which frees us to better focus on whatever it is we want to do,” she said. “I have seen this prove true in my work with students.”

Policymakers have begun acting on this for grades k-12, focusing their efforts on improving all aspects of a student’s wellbeing and success.

WKU is working on improving university climate by incorporating programs, like Mapworks surveys, which assess how a student is adjusting and succeeding in various aspects of college life, and MASTER Plan, a program for freshmen to get them acquainted with campus before fall semester.

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said the environment built at WKU is important.

“We have an excellent housing and residence life department that really welcomes students to the community through MASTER plan,” he said.

The report concluded by ranking each state based on the performance and policy feedback gathered by the report’s researchers, along with their previous standards based on past reports. The top spot, exceeding in successfully creating healthy social, disciplinary and academic environments was claimed by Maryland with a B+, for the fifth consecutive time.

“We made the top ten,” Emslie said. “I’m not totally impressed or too satisfied with a B-, but you have to look at the schools in the states in the top spots, where students will go to major universities like Harvard and MIT. What those universities are doing might not be the best policies for WKU, but we can always improve and adopt new policies of our own.”