Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2012, $499,985)
OJJDP's Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation (FIRE) program supports methodologically rigorous research and evaluation studies that inform policy and practice consistent with the Department of Justice's mission. OJJDP is focusing this year's FIRE program solicitation on funding studies of school-based practices, environment, and achievement that relate to reducing student victimization and the risk of delinquency. The goal of this year's FIRE program is to foster new and ongoing rigorous, scientific research and evaluation that has practical applications for the development of effective school programs, policies, and strategies that will foster positive youth development and reduce the risk of victimization and delinquency. This program is authorized by the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-55, 125 Stat. 552, 617, and 42 U.S.C. Sec. 5631.
The purpose of the proposed study is to develop a standard model for school climate and safety assessment. In order to identify the most useful indicators of school climate, this organization will evaluate the performance of several candidate scales using a cross-battery latent variable
approach on measures that will be randomly administered within schools to students and teachers(grades 7-12) in a statewide study of more than 600 Virginia middle and high schools. The results of these analyses will be used to construct an improved survey for students and teachers that will be administered statewide and again tested for psychometric properties. Based on prior findings, the organization will use authoritative discipline theory to identify the best indicators of three school climate domains of structure; strict, but fair, support, and student engagement. The organization hypothesizes that schools with
authoritative discipline qualities will have greater student engagement in learning and safer school conditions, and consequently less frequent use of exclusionary discipline (suspension and expulsion) and lower dropout rates, especially among minority youth. The results of this study will help move the field toward consensus on a theoretically-grounded and more psychometrically sound model for school safety assessment.