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Development of a Standard Model for School Climate and Safety Assessment

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2017
147 pages
Guided by authoritative school climate theory, this project developed a standard model for the assessment of school climate and safety.
The project collected data from just over 700 secondary schools. Data were obtained from 200,501 student surveys and 45,793 staff surveys. Participation rates were 98 percent for schools, 85 percent for students in grades 7-12, and 61 percent for teachers and other school staff invited to participate. A series of multi-level factor analytic studies provided strong evidence of factor structure, reliability, and convergent validity for key scales that measured school disciplinary structure, academic expectations, student support, student engagement, and the prevalence of teasing and bullying. The primary finding is that characteristics of an authoritative school climate were associated with positive academic and behavioral outcomes at individual and/or school levels. An authoritative school climate was characterized as having high expectations for students, which was reflected in high disciplinary structure (strict but fair discipline), high academic expectations for students, and high support for students (adults are respectful and caring toward students). The behavioral outcomes for students in authoritative schools included lower student aggression toward both peers and teachers as well as less student involvement in risky behaviors. The latter included self-reported alcohol and marijuana use, bullying, fighting, weapon-carrying at school, interest in gang membership, and suicidal thoughts and behavior. Academic outcomes for authoritative schools were higher student engagement, higher grades, higher standardized test-passing rates, and lower dropout rates. Analyses generally showed that primary study findings were not confounded by race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status. These findings should assist in building a consensus on a theoretically grounded and psychometrically sound model for school climate and safety assessments. Extensive tables and figures, 106 references, and appended project surveys

Date Published: August 1, 2017