Relationships between School Climate and Student Performance: School- and Student-level Analyses
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School climate has been widely recognized as an important component of successful schools and a predictor of a variety of student outcomes. However, there is an ongoing debate as to whether climate should be conceptualized and analyzed at the individual- or the school-level. This study used Hierarchical Linear Modeling to examine the relationship between 9th-grade students‘ perceptions of climate and their academic and behavioral performance. Multi-level methods helped to distinguish student- and school-level effects. Generally, results indicated that school climate simultaneously affects students on an individual and collective level. HLM analyses revealed that the majority of variance in school climate scores was within schools. Additionally, individual perceptions of climate were more strongly associated with better student performance than aggregate ratings, particularly students‘ perceptions of teacher‘s expectations and school safety. However, more between-school variance in students‘ academic and behavioral performance was explained by aggregate ratings of climate than within-school variance by individual ratings. Limited, yet positive support was found for the possibility that aggregate perceptions of climate may moderate the relationship between individual perceptions and student performance. Based on these findings, suggestions for how to more explicitly conceptualize and analyze climate at the individual- and school-level are provided.
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