The Relationship between School Climate, School Valuing, and Academic Achievement among Middle School Students

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For adolescents, middle school can be a turbulent and stormy experience. During this stage, young people go through significant developmental changes, seek autonomy from their parents, and desire a sense of belonging with others outside of their families. For this reason, the school environment plays an important role in shaping young people'sinterests - including the value they place in their academics. School climate is defined by the quality and character of the school environment, including students? sense of safety, interpersonal relationships, experiences in their classes, and the overall aesthetic and quality of resources in the school. While there is an extensive body of research on school climate, including the relationship between school climate and academic achievement, less is known about the pathways through which school climate may influence academic achievement. To address that gap, the current study seeks to investigate the relationship between school climate dimensions, school valuing, and academic achievement. To assess these relationships, the current study utilized surveys from 650 middle school students, as well as grade and attendance data from a large school district in Pennsylvania. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to examine the relationships between school climate dimensions (T1), school valuing (T1), and academic achievement (T2). Furthermore, tests of indirect effects were used to examine whether each school climate dimension was indirectly related to GPA via school valuing. Lastly, multigroup SEM was conducted to assess whether gender or race moderated significant indirect effects. Results indicate that the institutional environment domain was positively and significantly related to school valuing, after controlling for other school climate dimensions and covariates. However, all four school climate dimensions were not significantly related to GPA, after controlling for other school climate dimensions and covariates. Moreover, two school climate dimensions ? interpersonal relationships and safety ? were positively and significantly related to GPA via school valuing. However, these relationships did not hold when other school climate dimensions were controlled for. Race and gender did not moderate any significant relationships, and no significant findings were found for the exploratory outcome, attendance. Recommendations for school practice and school climate research are discussed.