Effective schools help teachers provide opportunities for their students to fulfill their academic and personal potential. However teachers do not work in a vacuum; there are many factors that influence their performance and the ways they interact with their students.
Research over the past 50 years has outlined the way organizational factors, such as a school’s culture and climate, influence both teacher and student outcomes. Mindset Scholar Matthew Kraft and his colleagues recently designed a study to look more closely at the relationships between individual components of school climate and the impact they have on both teacher turnover and student achievement.
The team wanted to know which dimensions of school climate had the strongest relationship with teacher and student outcomes. They also wanted to know if those dimensions of school climate were malleable and, if so, whether improvements in school climate could reduce teacher turnover and boost student achievement.
They surveyed a sample of over 334,000 students and 16,400 teachers from 278 public middle schools in New York City over time for a five-year period. The research team categorized school climate into the following four dimensions:
- Leadership and professional development (Leadership)
- High academic expectations for students (Expectations)
- Teacher relationships and collaboration (Collaboration)
- School safety and order (Safety)
- Teacher turnover and student achievement gains were associated with unique dimensions of school climate
- Improvements in all four dimensions of school climate measured in the study were associated with reductions in teacher turnover
- Students in schools where the school climate was improving experienced increases in their academic achievement gains
- The school safety dimension of school climate had the strongest relationship with student achievement
School climate & mindsets
This study affirms the importance of school climate for both teachers’ and students’ school experiences. Importantly, the dimensions of school climate measured in this study are malleable and therefore can be improved.
The dimension of ‘safety’ in the survey referred not only to physical safety but also to psychological safety. The finding that this component is related to student achievement reinforces the importance of providing students with a learning environment that is both physically and psychologically safe. Mindset science shows that focusing on creating a learning environment where students feel safe taking risks and learning from mistakes is key to student motivation and performance. Research shows that ensuring all students feel valued by their teachers and peers and that they belong in their learning environment can improve academic outcomes.