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Examining the Impact of School Climate on Student Achievement and Behavior

Sat, April 18, 4:05 to 6:05pm, Virtual Room


In this paper, we examine how several dimensions of teacher-student relationships (including equitable treatment, respectful treatment, academic support, and general and personal concern) are associated with student academic achievement and behavior outcomes in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD). The ICCSD is a mid-sized urban district in Iowa undergoing rapid demographic changes, and substantial racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, and disproportionalities in disciplinary outcomes.
Beginning with the work of James Coleman, scholars combined a focus on relations among school stakeholders and the normative environment of schools (Coleman and Hoffer 1987; Coleman, Hoffer, and Kilgore 1982). Building on this early work, Anthony Bryk and colleagues identified more specific organizational features of schools that were associated with student outcomes including strong relational ties, shared norms, value consistency, high academic demands, and strict, consistent discipline (Bryk, Lee and Holland 1993). Since then, many scholars have found that school environments with positive teacher-student relationships are associated with better student outcomes (Voight and Hanson 2017; Wang and Degol 2016; Berkowitz et al. 2016; Thapa et al. 2013; Crosnoe et al. 2004), and that high academic expectations from teachers is positively associated with academic achievement, sense of belonging, and engagement (Goddard et al. 2000; Lee and Smith 1999; Phillips 1997; Shouse 1996).
Using student survey data linked to administrative data for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, we conduct a series of multi-level, multivariate OLS regressions examining the association between each dimension of teacher-student relations and student achievement (as measured by the Iowa state and FAST assessments) and behavior outcomes (office referrals and problem behaviors). These models include several school characteristics such as student racial and FRL composition, school size, and school type as well as student characteristics such as racial/ethnic identity, gender identity, FRL status, and parental education. The models include both student-level and school-level measures of each dimension of teacher-student relationships, and in cases where we have parallel data from teachers and students, we also include measures from both reporters.
Preliminary findings suggest that individual student experiences are more influential predictors of student achievement and behavior outcomes compared to those of teachers, and that student experiences of academic support and equitable treatment from teachers are stronger predictors of both outcomes than aggregate school climate measures of teacher-student relations.
In using student survey data linked with two years of administrative data and survey data from both teachers and students, the analyses in this paper are able to contribute more robust evidence of how teacher-student relationships impact student achievement and behavior. The analyses shed light on the relative influence of teacher versus student perceptions of teacher-student relationships on student outcomes, and the relative strength of associations between personal experiences of teacher-student relationships and student outcomes, compared to the associations between the school-level measures of teacher-student relationships.