This research, which is the extension of a broad project to improve the climate in Virginia’s middle and high schools, had the main goals of 1) investigating stakeholder understanding and use of school climate data; 2) improving the school climate reporting process; and 3) identifying the longitudinal associations between school climate characteristics, school safety, and equity in student outcomes.
The authors’ previous research found that an authoritative school climate characterized by strict but fair discipline and high academic expectations, along with positive teacher-student relationships, is associated with many positive outcomes for students. In 2013, the authors began assisting the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and Virginia Department of Education in administering a statewide school climate survey. The survey was administered in alternate years to middle schools and high schools. During the first 4 years, the project focused on the survey content by developing survey scales, examining their psychometric properties, and testing hypotheses about the relations between school climate and school safety. Feedback was collected from school stakeholders, and a report was developed for each school’s survey results. The methodologies and findings of the current research documented how the participating Virginia schools are using survey data to improve school climate. The current study found that the survey scales measured the same school characteristics each year, and schools statewide made improvements in their climate over an 8-year period. In addition, school structure was found to be linked to decreases in suspension among middle and high schools. The study also found that teacher perceptions of school resource officers (SROs) in schools were generally positive and associated with teacher feelings of physical safety, adequate security, and administrative responsiveness. Students were more willing to report threats of violence. 3 tables and 57 references
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