Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Department of Education has been awarded a $3.3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. The Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) grant aims to provide the resources for systems to measure school climate and safety at the building level and to help intervene in those schools with the greatest needs.
“School safety is about protecting more than just the personal safety of students, but also promoting a supportive learning environment,” Deputy Education Commissioner Bruce Opie said. “Creating a safe and positive learning environment is important and necessary to give each child the opportunity for academic success.”
Tennessee will work to improve the conditions for learning in eligible schools through the development of a measurement system and systematic school-level interventions. A web-based system for assessing the quality of a school’s learning environment will be developed and combined with existing incident data to produce a school safety score for participating schools. Using this data, the department will work in collaboration with participating local educational agencies to implement evidenced-based interventions within schools facing the biggest challenges.
At the cornerstone of these efforts is the creation of a Center for School Climate that will identify best practices, evidence-based interventions, and provide technical assistance to schools. Training will be delivered via a newly created School Climate Academy which will certify Tennessee educators as School Climate Specialists upon completion. Additional training elements will focus specifically upon engaging students and parents in the process.
“The grant will enable us to be much more deliberate and data-driven in our efforts to provide positive learning environments for all students,” said Mike Herrmann, Executive Director of the Office of School Safety and Learning Support.
The new system will measure three broad areas of school climate including engagement, safety, and environment. While participation in the assessment process is open to all districts, grant funding will be limited to those schools with the greatest needs. Tennessee is only one of 11 states awarded a grant to implement these efforts in partnership with local education agencies.