Why is School Climate Important?

Research findings have contributed to a growing number of federal, state, and local educational agencies endorsing and supporting school climate policies and improvement practices.

There are many reasons why school climate and an effective school climate improvement process are important. School climate can serve as a protective factor that supports positive life outcomes for young people (Ortega, Sanchez, Ortega Rivera, & Viejo, 2011).

Positive results of strong school climate improvement work can be grouped into four “buckets”:

  1. SAFETY
    • Dramatic decrease in risky behaviors (Catalano, Haggerty, Oesterie, Fleming, & Hawkins, 2004)
    • Lower rates of student suspensions and discipline issues in general (Lee, T., Cornell, D., Gregory, A., & Fan, X. 2011)
    • Physical, social, and emotional benefits (Devine & Cohen, 2007)
  2. TEACHING/LEARNING
    • The effect of positive school climate not only contributes to improved academic outcomes among diverse groups of students (Astor, Benbenisty, & Estrada, 2009; Haahr, Nielsen, Hansen, & Jakobsen, 2005; OECD, 2009), but its effect seems to persist for years (Kerr, Ireland, Lopes, Craig, & Cleaver, 2004)
    • Higher graduation rates (L. Ma, Phelps, Lerner, & Lerner, 2009)
    • Powerful correlation between improved school climate and increased motivation to learn (K. B., & Pachan, M. 2008)
    • Positive school climate is correlated with decreased student absenteeism in middle school and high school and lower rates of student suspension in high school (T. Lee, Cornell, Gregory, & Fan, 2011; Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1989; Rumberger, 1987; deJung & Duckworth, 1986; Sommer, 1985; Purkey & Smith, 1983; Reid, 1982; Wu, Pink, Crain, & Moles, 1982)
  3. INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT
    • School connectedness is a powerful predictor of and is associated with adolescent health and academic outcomes (Whitlock, 2006)
    • Improved staff morale (Vezzuto, 2011)
  4. INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
    • In schools where students perceive a better structured-school, fair discipline practices, and more positive student-teacher relationships, the “probability and frequency of subsequent behavioral problems” is lower (M. C. Wang, Selman, Dishion, & Stormshak, 2010)
    • Safe, caring, participatory, and responsive school climate fosters greater attachment to school and provides the optimal foundation for social, emotional, and academic learning (Blum, McNeely, & Rinehart, 2002; Osterman, 2000)