School Climate Audits 

Our work with students across the state, as well as a myriad of research, makes it clear that student success is deeply tied to a sense of agency, autonomy, and belonging. However, traditional student surveys often decrease this autonomy when students are not given authority and knowledge of their own responses. 


In partnership with Panorama, a student-founded tech firm specializing in school survey work, we put the power of school climate data and analysis into the hands of students. Our team works directly with students at each of the schools we work with, ensuring that school climate work feels community-led and authentic. 


We target a set of schools that represent the geographic and demographic diversity of Kentucky, supporting districts and producing information about what students experience related to school climate and culture. We hope our student-driven audits model a meaningful student role in school climate work.

Our First Audit

In 2015, we pioneered our School Climate Audit at Robert D. Clark Junior High School in Clark County. Fresh off of a nationally-covered legislative campaign and a report on college transitions, we took a step down to investigate education at the grassroots. Over two visits, a small team of Student Voice Team members sat in on classes, observed the environment, and interviewed students, teachers, and administrators. Additionally, all students and teachers completed a handwritten survey.

In our first audit, we discovered that teachers and administrators did not fully understand their school's culture. When asked an open-ended question to describe an important issue that needed to be addressed at Campbell, 230 students explicitly mentioned some form of bullying. No teacher or administrator mentioned bullying.


Read Our Takes

June 8, 2017

The Case for a Student-Driven Approach to Improving School Climate

Zachariah Sippy

I'd had enough. The swastika scrawled on a bathroom stall in my high school was the last straw. After experiencing a year and a half of anti-Semitism in my school, I took to Facebook to post a testimonial.

June 20, 2017

Let’s Stop the Apathy in Kentucky and Beyond: The connection between student and civic engagement

Zachariah Sippy

We know democracy is in jeopardy when millions of people dismiss the political process as rigged and not worth their attention, choosing to stay home rather than vote. For example, in the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election, when the voter turnout was a dismal 30.6 percent. More than two-thirds of Kentuckians who could have voted stayed at home. Where did we go wrong?

Read the News Coverage

The Harwood Institute
October 22, 2019

One Step At A Time: Winchester and Clark County Seizing the Moment

National School Climate Center
October 22, 2020

School Climate Sessions

Aspen Institute
January 16, 2021

Creating Conditions for Student Success: A Policymakers’ School Climate Playbook