School Climate and Connectedness for African American Students with and without Disabilities
Smith, Kari L
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For many African American students and students with disabilities, perceptions of a positive school climate at the school-level can foster a positive connection to school at the individual-level. Guided by a developmental systems theory, I examined the correlations between licensed professional staff members’ perceptions of school climate and African American students’ with and without disabilities perceptions of school climate at three racially-ethnically diverse, suburban middle schools. I examined school climate by surveying 70% of the licensed professional staff members (n = 141) at each school and by having all 84 student participants complete a school climate survey. In addition to examining school climate data at the school level from the perspectives of licensed professional staff members, I explored individual-level variables for African American students with and without disabilities, including students’ perceptions of school climate, school connectedness, and students’ racial-ethnic connectedness. Results suggested a significant relationship between African American students’ perceptions of school climate and their feelings of connectedness to school. In addition, African American students’ perceptions of school climate predicted their perceptions of school connectedness. The findings from this study illustrate that for African American middle school students with and without disabilities, there is a significant and predictive relationship between school climate and connectedness.