School & District Management

Positive School Climates May Help Narrow Achievement Gaps, Analysis Finds

By Evie Blad — November 01, 2016 2 min read
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Schools where students feel safe, engaged and connected to their teachers are also schools that have narrower achievement gaps between low-income children and their wealthier peers.

A research analysis found correlations between improved school climates and narrower achievement gaps between students in different socio-economic groups.

Authors of the analysis, to be published today in Review of Educational Research, analyzed 78 school climate research studies published between 2000 and 2015 to detect trends in findings. They also suggested ways that school climate research could be strengthened.

All but one study analyzed found a relationship between school climate and student achievement.

“Our analysis of more than 15 years’ worth of research shows that schools do matter and can do much to improve academic outcomes,” study co-author Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social work and education at the University of Southern California, said in a statement. “Our findings suggest that by promoting a positive climate, schools can allow greater equality in educational opportunities, decrease socioeconomic inequalities, and enable more social mobility.”

While the studies used inconsistent definitions for school climate, the analysis generally defines it as “positive teacher-student relationships, sense of safety, and student connectedness to and engagement in school.”

Among the authors’ findings: A positive school climate can weaken the effects of low family income on achievement.

“About 13 percent of the studies found that climate has a moderating influence on the relationship between background characteristics and academic achievement,” the analysis says. “For example, some studies indicated that positive climate decreases the correlation between SES background and academic achievement, whereas negative school climate increases this correlation, primarily among students with lower SES backgrounds.”

The authors also suggest ways to improve school climate research: A uniform, consistent definition and form of measurement, and more rigorous, longitudinal research that incorporates insights from the whole school community, including teachers and staff.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.