568 Presentation and Critical Reading of One Course Reading

Reading – School Climate and Academic Achievement in Middle and High School Students


This study (Daily, Mann, Kristjansson, Smith, & Zullig, 2019) builds on previous studies on school climate and academic achievement that found a positive school climate may promote academic achievement and well-being. To look at this relationship further, the authors used a measurement called the School Climate Measure (SCM) (Zullig, Koopman, Patton, & Ubbes, 2010) to further break down the term, “school climate” into ten domains, and thus identify specifically which domain had more influence than others on self-reported academic achievement in English and Math. The student population in the study was comprised of middle and high school students in a mid-Atlantic U.S. state. Students were given a survey to complete, and answers were grouped according to the SCM domains.

The study was a quantitative look at identifying which domains had the largest effects on academic achievement in English and Math self-reporting of grades. The sample size was large (n=2405) which allowed for a fair representation of the general student population. The ten different domains used in the SCM were:

  1. Positive Student-Teacher Relationships
  2. Order and Safety
  3. Opportunities for Student Engagement
  4. School Physical Environment
  5. Academic Support
  6. Parental Involvement
  7. School Connectedness
  8. Perceived Exclusion/Privilege
  9. School Social Environment
  10. Academic Satisfaction

(Zullig, Koopman, Patton, & Ubbes, 2010)


Their findings indicated that the effects are small to medium, and that for both middle (Table 2) and high school (Table 3), Academic Support had the highest effect, although it was a medium effect (13% of the SCM variance for middle, and 17% of the SCM variance for high school). Among the next highest for both groups were Academic Satisfaction (11% middle, 12% high) and Positive Student-Teacher Relationships (10% middle, 12% high). As for noted limitations to the study and the findings, one limitation as noted by the authors was that the ethnic demographic was predominantly white. The results may look different with a student population that is more ethnically diverse. As well, grades were self-reported, so the risk of skewed memory and bias needed to be considered.

Personal and Professional connection to the paper

The personal and professional connection to the paper revolves around the idea of “school spirit.” Outside the classroom there are many factors that can affect a student’s academic achievement. According to the domains of the SCM from a teacher’s point of view, the factors that a teacher may affect are “positive student-teacher relationships; academic support, school connectedness; order and safety; and academic satisfaction.” Of the preceding list, the aspects that resonate personally are the socially themed, “positive teacher-student relationships” and, “school connectedness.” While the domains are not specifically defined, what may be gleaned regarding their scope can be seen in the questions that were in the survey. According to the SCM survey, the categories broke down to the following groups of statements:


Factor 1: Positive Student–Teacher Relationships

Teachers understand my problems

Teachers and staff seem to take a real interest in my future

Teachers are available when I need to talk with them

It is easy to talk with teachers

Students get along well with teachers

At my school, there is a teacher or some other adult who notices when I’m not there

Teachers at my school help us children with our problems

My teachers care about me

My teacher makes me feel good about myself


Factor 2: School Connectedness

My schoolwork is exciting

Students can make suggestions on courses that are offered

Students are publicly recognized for their outstanding performances in speech, drama, art, music, etc.

If this school had an extra period during the day, I would take an additional academic class

This school makes students enthusiastic about learning

Students are frequently rewarded or praised by faculty and staff for following school rules

(Adapted from Zullig, Koopman, Patton, & Ubbes, 2010, Table 2)

Research Topic

School climate and its effect on student academic achievement.

While there are many theories about methods of teacher instruction and student learning that contribute to student academic achievement, this topic concerns those factors outside the classroom (which may or may not include direct contact with the teacher), that may also contribute to academic achievement. While others have focused on connectedness and student health (McNeely & Falci, 2004), this is concerned more with academic achievement.

Research Problem

How can school climate contribute to increased student academic achievement?

The difficulty in trying to find causality with these two subjects is that school climate at best, has a moderate direct effect on student academic achievement (Daily, Mann, Kristjansson, Smith, & Zullig, 2019). What is more likely is that school climate has an indirect effect, and the long term results of the benefits of school climate may not be seen for years afterward. Nonetheless, the question may still be addressed in the moment by connecting school climate with positive student attitude towards schooling, which may then lead to increased academic achievement. In the Daily et al. study, while the effects were not high, there was a significant increase in self-reported academic achievement.

Purpose of interest

The purpose of my interest in this topic is to determine whether active efforts to create a positive school climate makes a significant impact on academic achievement of high school students. This may lead to a greater emphasis on school administration and school staff working on “school spirit” as much as pedagogy.

As a teacher who not only likes to inject energy into a class, but moves beyond the classroom to all areas, both physical and metaphorical, of the school, I am interested in knowing whether those efforts have a tangible outcome in students’ lives. While the effects of wearing a costume in school may create school spirit in the moment, how does this affect students’ achievement, or sense of belonging/ connection/ community, mental health, or future attitude towards education?

Future research questions

Among the many questions that arise from this inquiry are whether it is the job of the teacher to do this work, and what factors create the greatest increase in academic achievement? What expectations should be placed on the school to monitor school climate? 



Daily, S. M., Mann, M. J., Kristjansson, A. L., Smith, M. L., & Zullig, K. J. (2019). School Climate and Academic Achievement in Middle and High                      School Students. Journal of School Health, 89(3), 173–180. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12726

McNeely, C., & Falci, C. (2004). School Connectedness and the Transition Into and Out of Health-Risk Behavior Among Adolescents: A                                   Comparison of Social Belonging and Teacher Support. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 284–292. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-                                       1561.2004.tb08285.x

Nye, B., Konstantopoulos, S., & Hedges, L. (2004). How Large Are Teacher Effects? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis,26(3), 237-257.                        Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/stable/3699577

Zullig, K. J., Koopman, T. M., Patton, J. M., & Ubbes, V. A. (2010). School Climate: Historical Review, Instrument Development, and School                             Assessment. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 28(2), 139–152. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734282909344205