School Psychological Safety: A Quantitative Analysis of Maryland Middle Schools


Author/Creator ORCID




Hood College Education


Organizational Leadership

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States


This correlational study of 234 Maryland middle schools investigated the association between psychologically safe school environment scores, based on perceptions of students, and their literacy achievement. Student responses on the Maryland School Survey were used as the measure of psychologically safe school environment (PSSE). The association between PSSE scores and students’ literacy, using state language arts assessment results, was investigated at three levels: PSSE and overall literacy achievement, PSSE and literacy achievement of economically impacted students, PSSE and literacy achievement of non-economically impacted students. An economic moderator, economics of school attendance area by school zip code, was investigated to determine if it strengthened or weakened the correlation between the two variables. Students typically come from adjacent zip codes. The assumption was that the economic moderator, based on the school’s physical location, represented more or less economic resources which impact student achievement. A moderated multiple regression model was used to account for PSSE scores and the product of PSSE and the economic moderator. After completing statistical tests, trends, patterns, and variance were examined. A moderated multiple regression model revealed that PSSE had a 35% unique contribution to the variance in overall literacy achievement. It was also discovered that PSSE displayed a 30.1% unique contribution to the achievement of economically impacted students and 30.8% of non-impacted students. This research moved beyond the identification of economically impacted student groups to reveal school psychological safety is associated with higher levels of achievement. Recommendations are made on how to use the PSSE scores to improve school environments, identify areas of improvement, and explore characteristics of schools with high psychologically safe school environment scores. Recommendations for future research include using available school data to investigate programs, partnerships, or other resources supporting school psychological safety. This study provided statistical data with interpretations on Maryland middle schools in hopes researchers will seek out identified schools and uncover practices to increase psychological safety and, ultimately, academic success for all students.