Investigating the Effects of High School Climate on Non-Cognitive Strengths in College
thesisposted on 01.11.2017, 00:00 by Brittany R. Myers
College graduation rates are persistently low in the United States. At four-year institutions, 42% of students leave college before earning a degree (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014). To complete college, students need to be both academically prepared and ready for the challenges of college life. "Non-cognitive" strengths (e.g., self-efficacy, academic motivation, perseverance, time management, self-regulated learning) help students to face these challenges. In line with ecological theories of development, the non-cognitive model developed by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR) suggests that these skills are developed in context (Farrington et al., 2012), but there is currently no research investigating how high school climate relates to non-cognitive strengths in college. One prevailing model of high school climate has identified “five essentials” of school climate that may work together to influence student outcomes: Effective Leaders, Collaborative Teachers, Involved Families, Supportive Environment, and Ambitious Instruction (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Easton, & Luppescu, 2010). The investigator conducted one quantitative study and a set of follow-up qualitative analyses to explore how the five essentials of high school climate and other school-level demographic factors related to students' non-cognitive outcomes in college. The quantitative study used a multilevel structural equation modeling approach to investigate whether the Effective Leaders essential influenced students’ non-cognitive skills via the other four essential supports. The quantitative study used data from three sources: CCSR’s “My Voice, My School” survey, a Non-Cognitive Survey conducted at a large urban public university, and student data provided by the institution. In total, the current study used data from 2,822 college students nested within 113 high schools, with an average of 15 students per school. Exploratory analyses investigated the impact of the concentration of poverty at the school level on college outcomes. Follow-up qualitative analyses investigated the same questions through a series of small focus groups with non-transfer college sophomores at the same university (n = 8). Implications for future study, and for educational policy are discussed.