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Impact

Many schools across the country work to (a) ensure that they promote a positive school climate in order to foster the success and emotional well-being of students, teachers, and staff and (b) address situations that exacerbate harmful behavior and diminish achievement. Neglecting to purposefully address issues related to school climate may result in missed opportunities for student success and improved well-being. 

Positive School Climate

Positive school climate has been shown to contribute to student success and school experiences in many important ways. Schools can promote a positive school climate for students and staff by fostering connectedness through meaningful relationships, creating a sense of safety and freedom from violence, and providing an environment that is tailored to the needs of students.

A positive school climate

  • improves student motivation1 and achievement2 and helps close achievement gaps;3 increases high school completion4 and college readiness5 rates, and prevents school dropout;6
  • decreases rates of teacher turnover7 and improves teacher satisfaction;8
  • facilitates the turnaround of low-performing schools;9
  • has a positive impact on the mental and behavioral health of students,10 including contributing to a decrease in risky behaviors and depressive symptoms11 and an increase in feelings of belonging;12 and
  • results in decreased rates of student substance use.13

Interventions targeted at improving school climate have been shown to result in increased resiliency and sense of belonging for students with disabilities.14

Negative School Climate

Negative school climate is tied to multiple negative outcomes for students and has been shown to exacerbate harmful behavior and diminish achievement. Neglecting to purposefully address issues related to school climate may result in missed opportunities for student success and improved well-being.

A negative school climate

  • is linked to decreased graduation rates15 and poor student achievement;16
  • facilitates opportunities for bullying, violence, and even suicide;17
  • is associated with a decline in psychosocial and behavioral adjustment, as reflected in measures of self-esteem, depressive symptoms, and problem behavior;18and
  • disproportionately affects LGBT students and students with disabilities. For example:
    • For many LGBT youth, it can result in absenteeism, lowered educational achievement, and poorer psychological well-being.19
    • Among students with disabilities, it is tied to reports of anxiety, alienation from and disinterest in school, and feelings of being disrespected and not cared about by school staff.20

1 Goodenow, 1993
2 Osher et al., 2008; Bryk & Schneider, 2002
3 Becker & Luthar, 2002
4 Christenson & Thurlow, 2004
5 Pinkus, 2009
6 Christenson & Thurlow, 2004
7 Ingersoll, 2001
8 Taylor & Tashakkori, 1995
9 Weiss, Lopez, & Rosenberg, 2010
10 Suldo, McMahan, Chappel, & Loker, 2012
11 Denny et al., 2011
12 LaRusso, Romer, & Selman, 2008; McNeely, Nonnemaker, & Blum, 2002
13 Battistch & Horn, 2007
14 Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention, 2012
15 Christenson & Thurlow, 2004
16 Ripsy & Gregory, 2009
17 Jiang, Perry, & Hesser, 2010; Fleming, Merry, Robinson, Denny, & Watson, 2007
18 Way, Reddy, & Rhodes, 2007; Mayer, 2001
19 Birkett, Espelage, & Koenig, 2009
20 Milsom, 2006

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