Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
Impact of School Climate
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
Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).