School Climate as “Social Order” and “Social Action”: A Multi-Level Analysis of Public Elementary School Student Perceptions
The present study employed a sample of 25,087 students enrolled in 117 elementary schools to test whether student perceptions obtained in a general survey of school learning and social environment conformed to the dimensions of Stockard and Mayberry's (1992) conceptual framework for school climate, and whether data could be summarized as grouped (school) or non-grouped (individual) data. A confirmatory factor analysis showed that the proposed framework adequately fits student perceptions of school climate. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) analyses showed between-school differences. Although school membership accounted for a small amount of variance in school climate measures, school climate means showed relatively high reliability. School climate dimensions most immediate to the student (Action-Instrumental support and Action-Expressive support) showed the strongest relations to both student self-reported academic performance and student satisfaction, and these relations were generally the same across the schools. As predicted, expressive support as opposed to instrumental support was more beneficial (in terms of self-reported academic performance) to students in schools having proportionally more socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Implications of results for educational research and educational practice regarding school climate are discussed.
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