Measuring school climate in high schools: A focus on safety, engagement, and the environment

Catherine P. Bradshaw, Tracy E. Waasdorp, Katrina J. Debnam, Sarah Lindstrom Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

BACKGROUND: School climate has been linked to multiple student behavioral, academic, health, and social-emotional outcomes. The US Department of Education (USDOE) developed a 3-factor model of school climate comprised of safety, engagement, and environment. This article examines the factor structure and measurement invariance of the USDOE model. METHODS: Drawing upon 2 consecutive waves of data from over 25,000 high school students (46% minority), a series of exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses examined the fit of the Maryland Safe and Supportive Schools Climate Survey with the USDOE model. RESULTS: The results indicated adequate model fit with the theorized 3-factor model of school climate, which included 13 subdomains: safety (perceived safety, bullying and aggression, and drug use); engagement (connection to teachers, student connectedness, academic engagement, school connectedness, equity, and parent engagement); environment (rules and consequences, physical comfort, and support, disorder). We also found consistent measurement invariance with regard to student sex, grade level, and ethnicity. School-level interclass correlation coefficients ranged from 0.04 to .10 for the scales. CONCLUSIONS: Findings supported the USDOE 3-factor model of school climate and suggest measurement invariance and high internal consistency of the 3 scales and 13 subdomains. These results suggest the 56-item measure may be a potentially efficient, yet comprehensive measure of school climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-604
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of School Health
Volume84
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2014

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Keywords

  • Engagement
  • Environment
  • Measurement
  • Safety
  • School climate
  • School improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Philosophy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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